13/03/2018 11:11, Report by Mark Froggatt

Opinion: A stat to bust 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…

No United player has made more appearances under Jose Mourinho than Marcus Rashford.

The 20-year-old has played in 94 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 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.

The statistic may not be that surprising to match-going United fans who know that Rashford features in almost every game, across all competitions, but to the wider public it blows a gaping hole in the recent accusation from some quarters that Mourinho is somehow holding the player back and denying him of game time.

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 112 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."

Such scrutiny and comment, which unfortunately can be ill-informed, is common in the world of United and the squad must get used to it, and maybe even embrace it as a source of motivation. Just last week, I wrote about the ever-improving Romelu Lukaku not receiving the credit and praise that he deserves.

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."

Rashford made his 94th appearance under Mourinho on Tuesday evening, on the biggest stage in club football, and while it wasn't to be another fairytale for the 20-year-old, let’s all be thankful that we have such an exciting, immeasurably talented prospect with years still ahead of him.

Story updated 23:00 GMT, 13/03/18. The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.


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