Opinion: The statistic that busts the Rashford myth
I thought of several ways to start this article. A descriptive intro, stuffed with observations, or perhaps an attention-grabbing quote from a high-profile source, but then I realised the only way was to get straight to the point with a myth-busting statistic, so here goes…
The 20-year-old has played in 93 matches since the manager began his reign in August 2016, as both as a starter and substitute, which is 12 more than the second-highest appearance maker David De Gea, and 13 more than third-placed Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial.
It is a remarkable statistic that I was compelled to research after Mourinho addressed Rashford’s development in Monday’s pre-match press conference for the UEFA Champions League tie against Sevilla, telling reporters he believed Marcus was in the top five appearance makers of his tenure.
My ears pricked up at that line because I was convinced the boss had sold himself short. So, like the sad man that I am, I proceeded to spend 30 minutes of my Monday evening tallying up appearances and, lo and behold, Jose was too modest. Marcus is no.1 and holds a clear lead over his team-mates.
Bizarrely, among certain pundits, it was even claimed that Rashford should seek out a loan move to enhance his chance of representing England at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. Yes, really.
Looking at the bigger picture, since making his senior debut against FC Midtyjlland on 25 February 2016, roughly two years ago, Rashford has scored 31 goals in 111 United appearances, won the FA Cup, FA Community Shield, League Cup and UEFA Europa League, earned 15 international caps with England and represented his country at the 2016 European Championship. Not bad that, is it?
With that in mind, it is easy to understand how Mourinho has grown so exasperated with the conversation surrounding Rashford’s education, and why he took exception to Frank De Boer saying "it is a pity" the youngster is at United under his leadership. Why the former Crystal Palace manager made that dig is a curious one, but Jose was well within his rights to reply.
"He plays for Manchester United many, many matches," the manager explained to reporters. "Does he play every match from the start? No, of course not. But he's a player that we trust."
'It's a no-brainer to start Rashford'
Ben Thornley says it's a "no-brainer" to start Marcus Rashford against Sevilla after his two-goal display on Saturday...
Clearly, though, judging by his professionalism and two-goal display against rivals Liverpool on Saturday, Marcus has not been affected and appears to handle the attention with impressive maturity.
"The manager doesn't have to speak to me," said Rashford last Saturday. "In football you are going to be up, you're going to be down... sometimes you are in the team, sometimes you are not in the team.
"When you are younger than I am and you are learning the game, I think you do need reassuring words. But from my experiences of the past, I understand that's part of the game. There are only 11 players that start - it's just one of the those things."
As Rashford bids to make his 94th appearance under Mourinho this evening, stretching his personal lead over the rest of the United squad, and on the biggest stage in European football, let’s all be thankful that we have such an exciting, immeasurably talented prospect with years still ahead of him.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.