Start or bench – Erik ten Hag has a Marcus Rashford dilemma to solve at Manchester United – Steven Railston

Rashford is the ultimate confidence player and that dictates whether he delivers world-class or average performances. The forward was genuinely undroppable last season, enjoying the best year of his career and scoring 30 goals, but he&aposs found the net just once in 2023/24 and he looks to be carrying the weight of the world again.

There seems to be no middle ground with Rashford. He was the leading goalscorer by some stretch last term and yet the calls for him to lose his starting role have grown louder each week.

Perhaps most concerningly, Rashford has cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the pitch, his disinterested body language has not pleased season ticket holders and he&aposs regularly provoked groans from the terraces.

Rashford&aposs only goal this season came against Arsenal – an outstanding strike at the Emirates – and that&aposs clearly playing on his mind because a player of his quality, someone who sets high demands, should have more.

Rashford was flying this time last year and 12 months later, he&aposs crashing back to his levels in 2021/22, a trainwreck season which ultimately culminated in the player considering his future at the club after scoring just five goals.

The story of Rashford considering his options came after he was dropped against Manchester City at the Etihad in March 2022, when interim manager Ralf Rangnick chose to play two midfielders up front instead of playing him.

That was a damning indictment of how Rashford was performing and further proof that Rangnick never really valued him. The player has a healthy relationship with Erik ten Hag in comparison but he&aposs still regressed.

Rashford started on the bench against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup defeat and after failing a late fitness test prior to the Fulham game at the weekend, he was omitted from the squad and he watched from the stands.

Ten Hag was asked whether Rashford would have started if he&aposd been fit and he said yes. He was also asked about the birthday party episode after the Manchester derby defeat and he insisted the matter had been closed.

Rashford took part in first-team training on Tuesday and he&aposs set to fly to Copenhagen, but it remains to be seen whether he&aposs fit enough to start the Champions League game and if he does start should he be available.

Alejandro Garnacho started in the absence of Rashford against Fulham on Saturday afternoon and he was a bright spark in large parts of the second half, despite having started the game slowly in the opening 45 minutes.

The biggest area of improvement for Garnacho is he needs to have the same impact on games from the start as he does with appearances from the bench and there&aposs been a feeling he&aposs not ready for consistent starts.

But many have wanted Garnacho to start over Rashford this season and the latter&aposs form has not merited a settled starting role, which has left the dilemma of whether to bench the 26-year-old for a string of games.

Ten Hag has been forced to decide whether to continue starting Rashford, with the hope of playing him back into form again and him producing a goal, or to drop him and potentially damage his confidence even more.

It&aposs a delicate balancing act and when considering Rashford is such a confidence player, it might do more harm than good to have him out of the starting team for a sustained period as some have suggested should happen.

It will be fascinating to see if he starts against Copenhagen. The game is a must-win after defeats against Bayern Munich and Galatasaray in the group and Rashford starting on the bench would be significant.