Jose Mourinho has admitted Marcus Rashford has forced his way into the Manchester United side and will start against Feyenoord after an impressive performance in the Manchester derby at the weekend. Rashford is yet to start a game for United this season but has already grabbed the headlines with the winning goal at Hull and a hat-trick on his debut for England U21’s. He came on at half-time against City and impressed Mourinho with his “big personality”.
“The next big game is against Feyenoord and he is going to play, I trust him completely. I know his future will be absolutely brilliant.
“He is mainly a No 9 and if you want to play him in different positions, we need to work him, we need to improve him, but his big personality is there.
“Normally, people look to the football talent but the personality at this level is very, very important and he was showing that last season, he was showing that immediately. He gave us in the second half what we needed but didn’t get from Miki or Jesse in the first half.”
Despite United’s first defeat of the season, Rashford’s stock continues to rise. His attitude since becoming a Manchester United regular has been exemplary, first forcing Louis van Gaal to select him ahead of Wayne Rooney last season, and now it seems Mourinho will dispense with another big name in order to accommodate Rashford, as it seems Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss out this week. In an interview with Inside United given just this week, Rashford said that he was inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo the most as a young player and the parallels between the emergence of both he and Ronaldo at such a young age are there for all to see.
He was just 11 years old when Ronaldo left Old Trafford in 2009 but was still able to learn so much from the three-time Ballon d’Or winner in the four years they shared at the club. Such was the impact of the Portuguese forward, every young player in United’s academy looked up to him and was impressed by his drive and determination. Rashford, who joined United’s academy in 2005, pinpointed Ronaldo’s motivation to become the best player in the world as the aspect of his character that left the biggest impression on him as a young player. Speaking to Inside United, Rashford said:
“When Cristiano Ronaldo came to United, he was the one who everyone looked up to.
“The thing that impressed me the most was the fact he was only young when he came into the side and he wanted to be the best player in the side.”
To an extent Rashford has mimicked Ronaldo’s rise at Manchester United. He came into the team as an unknown 18-year-old and has not been afraid to make an impact or surpass the established names or bigger egos. Two of those to suffer following Rashford’s latest run-out are Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan after Mourinho all but confirmed they would not play against Feyenoord on Thursday.
“If you are asking me if some of them are going to play against Feyenoord, then no.
“And it is not to punish them. It is just that the only way I can decide my team is on performances. So of course I am going to play other players.
“Sometimes players disappoint managers. Is it their fault or mine? Well, it is my fault because I am the manager and it is my choice.
“Some of the boys felt the dimension of the game, the focus and attention that comes with a derby. It has nothing to do with experience. Rashford came on in the second half and looked like he was playing for the U18s against Salford City.
“You never know the way players are going to react, especially when you don’t know them so well. And after only a couple of months it is too early to know them really well. But maybe now for the next big game I know who will be able to cope with the pressure.”
Rashford is one of those who certainly can cope with the pressure. Now United fans will get an opportunity to see him from the start once more, back on the stage where he made his name. They might not want to be in the Europa League, but if it means a platform to allow the likes of Rashford to emerge and progress, Manchester United will welcome the distraction of European competition this season.