Marcus Rashord already knows Man United transfer truth after brutal Erik ten Hag exit decision

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag speaks to forward Marcus Rashford
-Credit: (Image: Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Erik ten Hag has largely stood by Marcus Rashford in public. Even when things weren't going the Englishman's way, Ten Hag was there to defend him or to deflect away from issues.

The most critical he got in press conferences was after the nightclub incident. "In football, you need discipline and that's on the pitch but also off the pitch," said the Dutchman.

"There is a line and every player, every professional knows this. They know what is required. We have to focus on winning football games and that's well that matters and every top professional knows what is required."

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Three months on and the relationship has deteriorated, the form hasn't gotten any better, and the future is uncertain. Ten Hag will be at Old Trafford come the start of next season, something that didn't look likely for much of the past six months, but Rashford might not.

Manchester United are not ruling out an exit for the 26-year-old this summer and although the preference would be to keep Rashford, it is not off the table that he leaves. Just 12 months on from signing a bumper new contract at his boyhood club, things are rapidly approaching something of a judgement day.

Rashford has scored five goals for United in 2024, none in his last eight appearances. His drop-off from getting 30 in all competitions under Ten Hag and leading the line as a standout in the manager's first season has been stark. Now he runs the risk of becoming just the next player to lose out to Ten Hag's disciplinarian demands.

With four years left on his contract and the prospect of pressure mounting significantly and quickly on Ten Hag next term if things don't improve visibly, there is an argument for Rashford to sit tight. He is on extremely good money and it's not impossible to think that he could have a new boss before long.

Ten Hag may well have had his contract with the club extended, but given how United's new minority owners courted so openly for replacements, it is not built on strong foundations. Ten Hag was effectively a last resort and everyone knows it.

Rashford is duty-bound to give his all for United but should the club attempt to sell him in the coming months - and crunch talks are set to be had - then there are sporting reasons to stay amid the uncertainty and toxicity, as well as go towards pastures new.

If Ten Hag's two years in charge say anything though, it's that things with Rashford will need to be patched up sooner rather than later. In his time as manager the former Ajax man has already won two high-profile personal battles and been rewarded for them, backed by the club.

Firstly it was against Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who aspires to be as big as any institution, then it was Jadon Sancho. The handling of both has been praised, though there is less certainty as to just how successful breaking from Sancho has been, and if it was wise for both parties to remain as stubborn.

So the precedent is already set. Ten Hag's power may well be reduced right now with sporting directors and influential figures arriving on a seemingly near-daily basis, but power he does still have. Power to veto transfers, power to manage the team, pick names, banish players, and power enough to push for yet another of his former Ajax stars in what could be the fourth defensive reinforcement from his past signed within 24 months.

United have, one way or another, already made their bed then. Here Ten Hag stands, here Ten Hag will remain (for now). If things don't turn around with Rashford during these talks and meetings, then the position of the manager will only enhance the likeliness that a parting of the ways is necessary.

Rashford can cling on to things and dig his heels in - why wouldn't he, after all - but Ten Hag is the one really being backed here. He is the one winning the fights with those who go against him at Old Trafford right now, and to this extent it is a dangerous path for Rashford to be on.

So far it has only been the players leaving when they confront and hit a wall with Ten Hag. There is no suggestion that Rashford will be any different.

It is not yet an unstoppable power against an immovable object, but Ten Hag has the recent history to show he is not going to be taken advantage of. If Rashford is the next tree to be taken down by Ten Hag's axe, then it will be hard to stop.