Rash­ford learns from mas­ter at Sol­sk­jaer’s fin­ish­ing school

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - JAMES DUCKER

THE se­cret di­aries of Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer must be a trea­sure trove of do’s and don’ts for strik­ers, and it was tempt­ing to won­der which par­tic­u­lar nuggets from their pages the in­terim Manch­ester United man­ager was shar­ing with Mar­cus Rash­ford in train­ing on Fri­day.

Rash­ford tweeted a pic­ture of him­self lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively to Sol­sk­jaer dur­ing a quiet mo­ment to­gether and it was fit­ting he should ac­com­pany the post with an emoji of a head­mas­ter’s hat. Hands clasped as Sol­sk­jaer spoke, the Eng­land for­ward looked ev­ery inch the en­grossed pupil hang­ing off a men­tor’s ev­ery word.

Lis­ten­ing to Sol­sk­jaer ex­plain, with great rel­ish, only a few hours ear­lier how he in­tends to grow Rash­ford’s con­fi­dence and, in turn, sharpen his goal scor­ing in­stincts, it is hard to be­lieve the 21-yearold could have asked for a bet­ter teacher at this del­i­cate stage of his ca­reer. From a young age grow­ing up in Nor­way, Sol­sk­jaer kept com­pre­hen­sive notes about his highs and lows in front of goal and then later started com­pil­ing a de­tailed diary from his meet­ings with Bill Beswick, the sports psy­chol­o­gist Alex Fer­gu­son used to em­ploy. In 11 years at United, he scored 126 goals in 366 games, in­clud­ing the in­stinc­tive fin­ish that won the club the Euro­pean Cup in 1999.

His first foray into coach­ing af­ter re­tire­ment was as the first team striker coach to, among oth­ers, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, Wayne Rooney and Car­los Tevez, in 2007/’08 — the sea­son they won a Premier League and Cham­pi­ons League dou­ble. Rash­ford — who has just five goals in 22 ap­pear­ances this sea­son — is learn­ing from some­one with a bi­ble of in­for­ma­tion to draw from and Sol­sk­jaer has al­ready iden­ti­fied the young­ster’s ten­dency to snatch at chances as one area ripe for re­fine­ment.

“Mar­cus has got far more than I did in terms of his phys­i­cal at­tributes — pace, strength and strik­ing the ball from out­side the box — but maybe I can give him a lit­tle bit of the nous that I had in­side the box,” Sol­sk­jaer said ahead of this af­ter­noon’s game at home to Bournemouth.

Sol­sk­jaer says he sees an ar­ray of rich at­tack­ing tal­ent at United but also a group of for­wards with frag­ile con­fi­dence. In that sense, Alexis Sanchez is no dif­fer­ent to Rash­ford, de­spite the Chilean be­ing nine years his se­nior, or Romelu Lukaku, an­other who has strug­gled badly in front of goal this term. Only An­thony Mar­tial, with eight goals in his last 10 league games, has any scor­ing form of note.

It was only three weeks ago, when dis­cussing Rash­ford’s lack of goals, that Jose Mour­inho claimed fin­ish­ing was in­nate — not some­thing that could be worked on.

Sol­sk­jaer clearly sees things very dif­fer­ently. “I wasn’t born with it,” he said. “I stud­ied fin­ish­ing, I stud­ied goals, I stud­ied move­ment. I worked on my men­tal­ity be­cause that’s key. You will al­ways miss chances but you can’t do any­thing about them once they’ve gone. It’s al­ways about the next chance.”

Rash­ford and his fel­low strik­ers should be in good hands.

Manch­ester United Sky Sports, 4.30

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Bournemouth

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