Manchester United have £80m Marcus Rashford dilemma after England call made

Marcus Rashford in action for Manchester United
Selling Marcus Rashford would represent pure profit for Manchester United -Credit:Photo by Ed Sykes/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images

While Marcus Rashford’s omission from Gareth Southgate’s provisional England squad for Euro 2024 may have been presented as a shock, the form of the 26-year-old meant it really shouldn’t have been.

Eight goals in 42 games in all competitions for Rashford for Manchester United this past season has seen him placed under scrutiny, with talk of a potential departure from Old Trafford mooted for this summer.

A proven player at an elite level, something evidenced through his 131 goals in 401 competitive games for one of the biggest clubs in the world, this season has been one where Rashford has failed to ignite, and at a time when the club is looking to reshape its identity now that Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been handed oversight of football matters after his minority stake purchase at the start of the year, Rashford can no longer be seen as untouchable.

READ MORE: Why Manchester United's Marcus Rashford is not in England's provisional Euro 2024 squad

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United faces a dilemma over Rashford, a player who on his day has shown over time to be one of the most potent attacking forces in the Premier League.

Last summer he signed a fresh five-year deal, one that would take him up to the summer of 2028. But the issue for United is that the kind of rebuild that they are believed to be targeting will require some significant funds to be raised in order to facilitate it and remain under the radar of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, in its final year next season before being replaced by a model akin to UEFA’s squad cost ratio rule.

Player trading is something that United has been poor at executing for some time, and that has hindered progress. Player trading is now more key than ever for clubs trying to remain compliant with PSR regulations and UEFA's squad cost ratio rule. Between 2017 and 2022, United’s overall profit from player sales stood at £92m, a sum far worse than any of their ‘big six’ rivals, with Chelsea’s talent conveyor belt from its Cobham Academy helping them to a £467m figure. Liverpool (£263m), Manchester City (£254m), Arsenal (£226m), and Tottenham Hotspur (£137m) all significantly outperformed United.

Player trading is key to how a club can operate in the market, and while United has been adept at growing revenues through greater commercial deals and the sums derived from matchdays, the club’s lack of a coherent football strategy is borne out through the numbers it has managed to get back in through the door in the transfer market.

The Rashford issue will be given some serious thought inside Old Trafford, and the decision of Southgate to omit a player who had been until recently seen as one of England’s key men, could be impactful in terms of what they may be thinking.

When players are sold, the profit that the club can book is whatever is over and above the remaining book value of a player, ie the remaining amortisation costs of the player being bought.

In the case of academy products such as Rashford, they are seen as pure profit as they hold no book value, meaning that whatever the transfer fee agreed, it can be accounted for in its entirety once the deal has been completed.

Selling on academy products has been one of the main factors in Chelsea being able to remain PSR compliant in the most recent financial year, with a number of Cobham graduates moving on for significant fees, while their replacements have their transfer fees amortised over the length of a contract, with clubs not required to account for the full outlay of the fee in one financial year.

Rashford, reported last summer to be on wages in the region of £350,000 per week, has seen his value fall on the back of a poor season, with analysts at CIES pegging his current value at €80m (£68.3m), while Transfermarkt has it at €60m (£51.2m). It is highly likely that United would seek above that, however, in the region of £80m given his previous achievements and proven record.

What United will have to weigh up is whether they feel Rashford can return to his previous levels of performance next season. If there are doubts then he makes an obvious candidate for a potential exit.

The question will be whether or not this summer represents the best time to sell for United. On the one hand, they will have him for an extra year of his contract, which is important for holding market value, compared to, say, next summer, but on the other hand his stock is currently low, and his England omission will do little to prompt would-be suitors to pay over the market value for a player on the back of a season of decline, which has been recognised by his absence from a major international competition.

It would also depend on what kind of clubs would be in the market for such a player. He is of the right age and pedigree, but it is hard to see United selling to a ‘big six’ rival, and it is the Premier League where the most willing spending will take place this summer.

It’s also hard to see him heading to the riches of Saudi Arabia, meaning that options such as Paris Saint-Germain, or clubs in the Bundesliga or Serie A may be under consideration.

The early weeks of the transfer market will see some pieces fall into place, and that could set off a domino effect that leads to United either sticking or twisting. It will also mean that clues will be available as to just how fertile the market is, and who is willing to spend.

United need to be more adept at player trading, and part of that involves being ruthless and taking sentiment out of the picture. A call will need to be made on the likelihood of Rashford improving his situation at the club, if not the money they will be able to recoup will only diminish. It is a major call for Ratcliffe and the new team behind the scenes at Old Trafford.