Rashford has found himself come under the microscope during a run of 11 United games without a goal, with focus rather tiredly and predictably turning to his off-field interests
After lengthy checks on whether or not Ollie Watkins nudged the ball on to Danny Ings as he was virtually on the goalline, thereby making Ings offside, or if Ings then handled the ball into the net, it was ultimately decided that the infringement was actually neither of those things.
The reason for the cancellation of the goal had occurred before all that, when Jacob Ramsey ran back from a clearly offside position to foul Edinson Cavani, thereby very much interfering with play. There we go, we got there in the end.
The Ramsey foul wasn’t immediately apparent but it was certainly a foul, and while Gerrard didn’t rail too hard against VAR and the act of disallowing the goal which ultimately led to Villa’s FA Cup exit, the point he raised about the time it took to make the decision was a valid one.
You probably could, after all, find something wrong with most goals if you took long enough. There is usually something to blame or point to as a reason for something even if it was initially undetected.
Real life runs differently to video assistant referees though, and far too often we see those who jump to the obvious, convenient conclusions instead of looking deeper.
And in the case of Marcus Rashford, they don’t have to look far for their ammunition.
It is now 11 games without a goal for the Manchester United forward, who cut a disconsolate figure when he was substituted along with Bruno Fernandes – who has scored just once in 21 games, by the way – in the 86th minute.
Rashford was sluggish against Villa, and there was that puzzling moment when he failed to react to Emiliano Martinez spilling Mason Greenwood’s shot. Had he been quicker to the ball then there’s every chance he’d have scored.
But do we have to immediately cast his on-pitch difficulties up against everything he does off it? It is so lazy and it also gives Manchester United and their management a free pass. Yet another one.
As Rashford has done everything he can to make lives better for others in the past couple of years, his football club haven’t exactly helped him or their other attacking talents.
You can go back to the signing of Alexis Sanchez three years ago this month for the first example of that, as Rashford and Anthony Martial saw their development blocked by Jose Mourinho’s insistence on a quick, ultimately disastrous fix.
Then post the Mourinho era there has almost been the complete opposite problem, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer desperate to get Rashford and often Greenwood on the pitch as part of his grand plan to try and recreate the 1990s, point to the club’s famed youth policy and lovingly gaze at Sir Alex Ferguson’s parking spot that he refused to take. The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo played into that too.
Before that dominant factor arrived, Rashford was often ran into the ground by Solskjaer, with the forward playing when he was clearly injured.
Nagging shoulder and back problems have dogged his last couple of years, but such was Solskjaer’s disregard for those that he would almost always be in the team until he reached breaking point.
“I didn’t want to play him. I think he got a knock, a knee or something, in his back, but he’s been struggling for a little while,” said Solskjaer in January 2020 when he brought Rashford on in the 64th minute of an FA Cup replay against Wolves, only to see him leave the field after 80.
“We needed the win. He was involved in the goal so that was a positive, but it backfired.” If hadn’t been for Covid delaying the season then he’d have been out for the rest of it.
The shoulder was continuing to bug him last season too, right up until the Europa League final when he somehow played 120 minutes – although Solskjaer’s failure to make a substitution for the first 100 should perhaps mean that wasn’t a surprise.
After that came the Euros and all the rigours that came with that, with Rashford finally undergoing shoulder surgery shortly after he’d felt the weight of the world on there when England lost to Italy in the final.
Aged 24 Rashford is closing in on 300 games for United, and the way that the club has been managed recently means that he will have felt almost every one of those.
Compare that workload to a player such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is just one year younger but has played almost 100 fewer club games, while Jack Grealish, two years older, has played 13 fewer.
Liverpool and Manchester City’s ability to control football matches can often lead to spells when their players rest on the ball too, but Rashford has found himself playing in sides who often don’t tend to know what their next move is.
Had he been playing for one of United’s rivals or even back in the day under Ferguson he would have been afforded a rest, especially as he didn’t have a proper pre-season following the shoulder op.
Yet as United scramble around and desperately hope that Ralf Rangnick and his 4-2-2-2 – a system which doesn’t really seem to suit Rashford – will get them on a right track, they are seeing a clear lack of confidence from a player who should represent all that is good about the club.
He still does off the pitch and he still can on , but he could do with a helping hand from those around him.