Manchester

Manchester United cannot repeat Bruno Fernandes decision with Marcus Rashford – Steven Railston

The appointment of Erik ten Hag was not completed and Ralf Rangnick was in interim charge of the club when Fernandes' contract extension was announced. Ten Hag was officially appointed in late May and the club should have waited until his arrival in Manchester to give Fernandes a new deal. The decision to extend his contract in April did not send the right message.

That's without mentioning he was not performing well enough for a new contract and that he had three years remaining on his previous deal. Fernandes endured a disappointing campaign last season and he markedly regressed from his usual standards.

United's recruitment strategy has been awful over the last decade, but they also have a history of making rash contract decisions, which they can't allow to happen again with Marcus Rashford.

You must earn a new contract, not be given a new deal by default. Fernandes was always going to have his deal extended but it was done at the wrong time. It would also be wrong for the club to give Rashford a new bumper contract at this particular moment.

Although Rashford is technically in the final year of his contract, there is an option of an additional year and the Manchester Evening News understands the club intend to exercise that clause, which means his new deal would expire in the summer of 2024.

Rashford has contributed three goals and two assists this season and he's already close to surpassing his woeful contribution in the final third from the whole of last season (five goals and two assists), but the jury remains out on him, despite that strong start.

Although there is no doubt that Rashford can be an elite player, he has failed to consistently perform across the last two seasons. Rashford lost his starting place in the team last term and he looked devoid of confidence and a shadow of his former self.

Rashford's body language was concerning, but the change in his demeanour in just a few months has been remarkable. He is fit and healthy, he had the luxury of an interrupted pre-season and he also got engaged to his long-term partner this summer.

That has provided Rashford with the platform to enjoy his football again and the smile on his face has returned. It was an overused cliche that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was putting smiles back on faces during his tenure but Erik ten Hag has achieved that too.

Rashford has benefitted from Ten Hag's tactical input and he's now getting close to something like his best. The next challenge for the 24-year-old is to sustain the performances that have made him undroppable over the first few weeks of the new season.

While Rashford's displays have improved, he has played just six Premier League games and you do not deserve a new contract for performing well at the end of August and the start of September. Rashford must earn a new long-term contract.

United set a dangerous precedent when giving Fernandes a new contract when he did not deserve a new deal at that time. If they make another mistake and give Rashford a new long-term deal this season, it will be a symptom of incompetence at board level.

United have the power in negotiations with Rashford. The player is set to have his contract extended until the summer of 2024 and there is no rush to make a decision on his long-term future, despite what his brother and agent might have you believe.

Rashford's brother met with Paris Saint-Germain officials, who have always admired Rashford, in August and there was a suspicion that meeting was organised with the hope it would increase pressure on United to offer him a new contract.

Ten Hag said that Rashford has enough experience to deal with such reports. That is likely to be true, but do United officials have enough experience not to be drawn into agent games? How they handle Rashford's contract situation will answer that.

Rashford must earn a new long-term deal and that should be a non-negotiable for any player at Old Trafford.

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