Paul McGuinness worked for Manchester United's academy for 24 years, from 1992 to 2016, helping players such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Darren Fletcher make the step from the youth team into the first-team.
More recently, Marcus Rashford is among the list of players to develop under McGuinness' tutelage, with the United forward joining the academy as a seven-year-old.
“Marcus was always respectful with me and driven to improve,” McGuinness tells FourFourTwo. “One of my jobs was to help players fall in love with the club. You want them to think of the place as their favourite youth club, to indoctrinate them.
"That was one idea behind taking them away on tours – that and specifically improving Marcus on his receiving skills on one trip to Germany. You are the guardians of Manchester United history, and I felt Marcus was massively in love with Manchester United."
Last season, though, represented the worst goals return for Rashford since breaking into the first-team in 2015, managing just five goals in 32 appearances in all competitions. For McGuinness, the 2021/22 campaign saw Rashford fall out of love with the club - something he has rediscovered in abundance this season.
"One reason for a drop in form last season was that he cared so much and thought, ‘This isn’t what it used to be’, when he was a kid," McGuinness suggests.
The coach continues, suggesting Rashford's development into a world-class footballer has been stunted somewhat by the uncertainty which has surrounded Old Trafford in the last decade.
“He’s played for the club at a time when there’s been continuous change and turmoil,” he points out. “That’s not easy for a young player adapting to different managers, who all come with different ideas and change four or five players. The training changes – there were significant differences between David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
"It affects players. Football is really complex and all young players’ development will have been stifled. Van Gaal had a logical step-by-step style of football with combinations and dribbling, the stuff Marcus had been brought up on. When you have a stable team, you start to build connections and passes with the players you’ve worked closely with.
"People think that if you bring a new player in, then it’ll click. It doesn’t usually happen. Casemiro clicked this season, but he’s a five-time Champions League winner. Most of United’s big buys didn’t. If they had, Marcus would be even further on with his career than he is now.”
Under Erik ten Hag, though, Rashford has flourished. Indeed, this season is already the best of his career so far, and there are still more than ten games remaining for Manchester United. 27 goals in 45 games in all competitions at the time of writing is impressive, and is coupled with the League Cup trophy as the side target further glory in the FA Cup and Europa League.
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.