Rashford has been making waves both on and off the pitch in recent weeks and stole the once again headlines on Wednesday night as he came off the bench to score a stunning hat-trick in the Red Devils’ thumping 5-0 win over Leipzig in the Champions League.
The 22-year-old attacker also took centre stage a week earlier with a brilliant last-gasp strike in United’s 2-1 victory away at Paris Saint-Germain.
Rashford has made a habit of scoring late for United – with all but one of his goals this season coming in the final 20 minutes of matches – and Merson feels the England international is at his most ‘dangerous’ when terrorising tiring opposition defenders in this period.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should use him more often like that because the stats show that’s where he can sometimes be most dangerous.
‘When he starts, he doesn’t really score bundles of goals and often finds it difficult. But he came on this week against Leipzig and scored a hat-trick in 16 minutes! If you look at when he scores his goals this season, they tell you a story.
‘He scored as a sub against Luton in the 88th minute in the EFL Cup. He scored in the second half against Brighton. He scored in the last minute against Newcastle. He scored with three minutes to go against Paris Saint-Germain and all his goals against Leipzig were at the end of the game. His goals are coming against tired defenders. Maybe United should experiment with that.
‘Arsenal is going to be a tight game. If it’s 0-0 after 60 minutes and Rashford comes on just when defenders are getting tired, he could have a field day.’
Merson added: ‘Don’t get me wrong. Marcus Rashford is too good to spend his whole career as a supersub. He’s an England international.
‘But I think he needs a rest and playing a few games off the bench might actually do him some good in the long run.
‘The rest of United’s bench is not changing a game for Solskjaer. But Rashford can. And there’s no better feeling as a manager than having a weapon like that to bring on.
‘Rashford is a better player when the game opens up and there’s space to burst into. But United can’t open games up from the start because they’re not good enough defensively.
‘You’ve got to have players who will tire out defenders so that when Rashford comes on those defenders will be on their knees. Anthony Martial can do that. So could Mason Greenwood.
‘What Rashford’s done lately off the pitch with the campaign to feed hungry kids is absolutely phenomenal.’
While Merson accepts Solskjaer could get ‘slaughtered’ if Rashford is benched and United go on to lose, he urged the Norwegian to ‘show some bottle’ and hold the forward back until the second half.
‘Rashford is still a young player with a lot of pressure on his shoulders. A few games coming off the bench might do him some good,’ Merson continued.
‘But has Solskjaer got the bottle to use him like that? If they lose to Arsenal and Rashford hasn’t started, he’ll get slaughtered.
‘It’s hard for Solskjaer to do that. Double hard now that he’s just scored a hat-trick. But it might be the right thing to do.
‘If I’m a defender I’d much rather have Rashford starting the game and fading than coming on with fresh legs at the end when I’m knackered.
‘Solskjaer knows what it’s like. He was the best at that. He will know. But it will take bottle to ask Rashford to do it.
‘Good subs see space and burn you with their pace, and he can certainly do that if United use him right. Solskjaer should show some bottle.’