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Erik ten Hag's first season at Manchester United delivered plenty of optimism, in large part because of Marcus Rashford's fine form. The mainstay notched an impressive 30 goals across all competitions last season as the team finished third in the Premier League and added a League Cup to the trophy cabinet, and left many with the feeling that another similar season would be ahead.

This season, though, has so far been a sharp contrast from the last. The team has just three wins in seven league matches and enter matchday two of the Champions League winless. The slump is also reflected in Rashford's form -- he is far from the goalscoring exploits of last season, and has just one goal on the board in eight games.

Ten Hag, though, has not lost faith in Rashford and still considers him central to United's success this season. In his pre-match comments on Monday before the squad's Champions League tie with Galatasaray, the manager noted the player's less-than-ideal run is not down to a lack of trying.

"The facts are he is not scoring in this moment, but he had opportunities," ten Hag said, per ESPN. "He had five or six against Brighton and if he works hard, if he invests every day, goes with the right focus and if the team around him supply and help him and support him with movement then it will come. Marcus Rashford is a player who is capable of scoring goals in every game and when he comes in the right spot, he will score."

Ten Hag's comments have a kernel of truth in them. For starters, he undersold the player's performance in their 3-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion last month -- he had nine total shots. His shot-taking is up this season to 4.13 shots per 90 minutes in league play after he averaged 3.37 shots per game during the previous campaign.

The quality of those shots, though, is a different story. Rashford notched just two shots on target out of nine against Brighton and an overall expected goals tally of 0.69, revealing a tendency to misfire that has plagued him all season.

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His expected goals per game is down from 0.5 last season to 0.4 during this campaign, and the same is true for shots on goal and shots on goal percentage. Rashford had 1.56 shots on goal per game during the 2022-23 season, while 46.3% of his shots were on goal. This season, the figures are down to 0.89 and 21.4%, respectively. Rashford's shot on goal percentage per game is at its lowest in the last four seasons.

Despite the downturn in goalscoring form, Rashford has improved as a playmaker this season. Though he is averaging roughly the same number of assists as he was last season, his expected assists tally per game is up to 0.19 from 0.09 and he is averaging 1.33 chances per 90, more than the 0.93 he posted last season. He is also averaging more expected assists than he has in the last four seasons.

The numbers paint an interesting picture, that of a player who is sacrificing his own ability to get into prime locations in order to set his teammates up in those spots, but it's coming as Rashford logs major minutes at striker instead of on the wing.

Regardless, his contributions could be good news for new United striker Rasmus Hojlund, who is being touted as the answer to the team's long lasting search for a goalscorer up top and someone Ten Hag hopes will build a lethal relationship with Rashford going forward. Those stats could also be a sign that Rashford's role is evolving within ten Hag's team, though it might be too early to say that for sure.

That said, it seems fairly clear that Rashford's rocky start is linked to United's up-and-down form so far this season. It is hardly the only thing keeping the team down -- ten Hag's injury crisis in defense means his team has been awfully vulnerable in the back -- but a reversal of Rashford's fortunes could provide the spark for the squad's course correction along the way.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Tuesday, Oct. 3 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Old Trafford -- Manchester, England
  • Live stream: Paramount+
  • Odds: Manchester United -225; Draw +360; Galatasaray +550

Matchday 2 TV schedule

All times Eastern

Tuesday, Oct. 3TimeHow to watch

Union Berlin vs. Braga

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+

Red Bull Salzburg vs. Rea Sociedad

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+

UEFA Champions League Today Pre-Match

2 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Golazo Show

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Napoli vs. Real Madrid

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Manchester United vs. Galatasaray

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Lens vs. Arsenal

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Inter vs. Benfica

3 p.m.

Paramount+

PSV vs. Sevilla

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Golazo Network

Copenhagen vs. Bayern Munich

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

UEFA Champions League Today Post-Match

5 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Champions Club

6 p.m.

CBS Sports Golazo Network

Wednesday, Oct. 4TimeHow to watch

Atletico Madrid vs. Feyenoord

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Golazo Network

Antwerp vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

12:45 p.m.

Paramount+

UEFA Champions League Today Pre-Match

2 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Golazo Show

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Newcastle United vs. Paris Saint-Germain

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Borussia Dortmund vs. AC Milan

3 p.m.

Paramount+

RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Porto vs. Barcelona

3 p.m.

Paramount+

Crvena zvezda vs. Young Boys

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Golazo Network

Celtic vs. Lazio

3 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

UEFA Champions League Today Post-Match

5 p.m.

Paramount+ / CBS Sports Network

The Champions Club

6 p.m.

CBS Sports Golazo Network

Kickin' It

7 p.m.

CBS Sports Golazo Network