Does Alexis Sanchez's Manchester United arrival threaten Marcus Rashford's World Cup hopes?

Does Alexis Sanchez's Manchester United arrival threaten Marcus Rashford's World Cup hopes?

The capture of Alexis Sanchez was hailed as a major coup for Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.

The Chilean forward, who had spent four years at Arsenal, swapped the Emirates for Old Trafford in the January transfer window, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan travelling in the opposite direction.

Sanchez had long been linked with a move to Manchester City, having worked with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, but the Cityzens bowed out of the race to sign him.

Such is Sanchez’s pedigree that, unsurprisingly, he has slotted straight into the starting XI.

The 29-year-old made his debut in the FA Cup victory over Yeovil Town and netted his first United goal in the 2-0 victory over Huddersfield Town, slotting home a rebound after his penalty had been saved.

Sanchez has all the qualities to become a cult hero at Old Trafford and is capable of elevating United to the next level.

While Sanchez’s arrival in the North West has strengthened Mourinho’s attacking resources, it could have serious repercussions for one of the club’s rising stars.

Marcus Rashford was an unknown quantity when he burst on to the scene two years ago, as a precocious teenager.

Due to an injury crisis, then-manager Louis van Gaal promoted the academy graduate to the first team and what an impact he had.

Scoring twice on both his Europa League and Premier League debut, against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal respectively, the birth of a new English superstar was hailed.

Rashford soon broke into the England set-up and was picked in the squad for the 2016 European Championship by Roy Hodgson.

His brilliant cameo against Wales, which transformed the game for the Three Lions, was one of the very few highlights in an otherwise wretched campaign.

Under current manager Gareth Southgate, Rashford scored a spectacular first competitive goal for the national team against Slovakia last September.

With the World Cup now only four months away, Rashford should be continuing his development and playing regularly for United to guarantee his seat on the plane to Russia.

However, of late this plan has been derailed.

After a fast start to the campaign, in which he contributed seven goals and five assists in the first 16 fixtures, Rashford’s form has tailed off. He has not scored or assisted in the top-flight since October.

Sanchez’s signing is another obstacle in the road for the Manchester-born 20-year-old.

Since the Chilean joined United, Rashford has started only one game – and that was in the FA Cup where he bagged the first goal in a 4-0 triumph over Yeovil.

In the two succeeding Premier League fixtures, he has been restricted to a place on the bench.

He was an unused substitute in the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and played only 20 minutes against Huddersfield Town.

On several occasions, Southgate has publicly stated he would only select players getting regular game-time for their clubs.

He cited Jack Wilshere’s lack of Premier League minutes for the Arsenal midfielder’s controversial omission during the last international break.

Southgate has demonstrated the courage of his convictions by dropping players that have fallen out of favour at club level, including Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

At first glance, Rashford’s appearance record this campaign looks healthy. He is only seven short of the 32 games he featured in last term.

However, he is increasingly being used as a substitute by Mourinho, who is favouring Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard ahead of him.

If Southgate sticks to his policy, could Rashford miss out on a place at the World Cup? Such a scenario would have seemed unthinkable only a few months ago.

The United starlet’s versatility – he can either spearhead an attack or operate as an inside forward – plus his early impressions in an England shirt, will probably count in his favour when Southgate selects his 23-man party.

At this crucial stage of the season, with United about to resume their Champions League quest, Southgate will be hoping Rashford can force his way back into the starting XI.

If he does not, Southgate may have a decision to make.

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