In the era of Fantasy Football and highly scrutinised stats, assists have almost become as vital a part of an attacker’s repertoire as goals.
While players like Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani, as well as rival hitmen like Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane, will always be judged primarily on how often they find the back of the net, the regularity with which they set up team-mates is also now measured and often quoted, with goals and assists even combined as part of the ‘goal involvements’ stat.
However, while scoring stats are indisputable – bar the odd review by the Premier League’s Dubious Goals Panel – the world of recording assists is a bit murkier.
Rashford managed his 10th assist of the season in all competitions on Sunday, when setting up Luke Shaw for his 50th-minute strike at the Etihad, which put us two goals to the good in the Manchester derby.
Watch all 10 of Rashford’s assistsVideo
That’s already the most that our no.10 has recorded in one season and you can watch them all in our video above.
But, depending on who you listen to, Marcus hit that landmark on 18 February – or perhaps even nine days earlier!
That’s because some sites, like Transfermarkt.com, say winning a penalty (Marcus was fouled for Bruno Fernandes’s spot-kick in the 3-1 win over Newcastle, for example) counts as an assist.
Others also credit deflected passes – as with Rashford’s ball to Fernandes for his opener in the 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad – whereas this isn’t reflected in the data recorded by Opta.
The confusion came across in a recent interview I conducted with Marcus, who seemed to have believed I’d been a touch unfair to him when quoting 16 goals and eight assists for the season, prior to the West Brom game on Valentine’s Day!
“I think you’ve taken a few assists off there!” replied the 23-year-old.
“I’m not sure, everyone says different numbers but I think I’ve got it as 16 [goals] and 11 [assists], but you just take it game by game.
“I think my job as a forward is to work hard for the team and just try to provide as many goals and assists as I can. They’re the things that win you games.
“I have to just stay concentrated on that throughout the season.”
90 in 20: City 0 United 2Video
Although his answer was clearly tongue-in-cheek, I was struck by just how much Rashford was paying attention to his personal stats.
Clearly there’s a desire there to keep a detailed track of the progress he’s obviously been making over the past season or two, because whoever you believe when it comes to assist stats, it cannot be denied that Marcus’s ability to provide for his team-mates is just another string which has been added to his ever-increasing bow.
Rashford enjoyed his highest-ever goalscoring season in 2019/20, netting 22 times despite missing a large portion of the campaign through injury.
He’s already on 18 this term and, with United having an absolute minimum of 13 games to play, it’s likely that he’ll be beating more personal bests very soon – and that one won’t be disputed!