The England side of the late 2000s usually offered more questions than answers; there was real confusion about how a side with so much talent didn’t win any trophies, and how a midfield of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard could have been so poor.
Regardless of your loyalties, anyone who watched Lampard and Gerrard at their peaks will admit that they are two of the greatest players English football (and perhaps the wider world) has ever produced, but they could not find a way to work together.
The Lampard/Gerrard conundrum is infamous in English football, and Manchester United fans must be concerned that Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford could be about to create their own dilemma.
Both are 251 appearances deep into their United careers, but despite all that time together, they are yet to figure out a way to coexist. Both Martial and Rashford want to be out on the left wing, but that town ain’t big enough for the both of them, and whoever pulls the short straw begins every game at a disadvantage.
Despite the odd bright spell, Martial’s form has been a concern all season. Whether deployed as a striker or as a left winger, the Frenchman hasn’t really turned up just yet, and he put in another anonymous performance in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.
However, while his poor performances usually only impact himself, this time around, it dragged down Rashford as well.
Martial lined up in Rashford’s regular position on the left wing, forcing the Englishman out to the right, and it led to awkward performances from both. Rashford looked uncomfortable during his 60 minutes on the right and was hesitant to cut inside, and it led to some really stale attacking from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
It was only after Martial left the game and Rashford returned to the left that United actually woke up. Playing through the 23-year-old, United had some oomph for the later stages of the game, but it was all too little, too late.
It’s no secret that Rashford’s best position is out on that left, but to make space for Martial, he had to be moved over to the other side of the pitch, and nobody won. The two outstanding wingers looked positively normal at best.
This isn’t all Martial’s fault. When Rashford is on the left, Martial is ineffective in attack or on the right. They don’t mesh. These are two players who play such similar football that they actually end up treading on each other’s toes. It’s Lampard and Gerrard all over again.
For this to work, one of them is going to have to be played away from their favourite position, and as Lampard & Gerrard showed us, that can be a recipe for disaster.