Marcus Rashford had an eventful 10 minutes in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. He came off the bench, won a penalty and was then sent off within 10 minutes.
Jose Mourinho acknowledged that his young forward had been naïve in responding to Phil Bardsley’s provocation, while the Burnley defender somehow managed to escape his wrongdoing. His kick on Rashford, which caused the reaction, went unpunished, while he received just a yellow card for doing exactly to Rashford what had been done to him.
Still, the red card means Rashford will miss the next three United games, so his current break with the England national team will likely do him good.
Rashford played in six of the national team’s seven games at the World Cup, scoring in the penalty shoot-out against Colombia that booked England’s place in the quarter-finals. Rashford had never taken a penalty before, for club nor country, so it showed great bravery to step up to the plate.
With Jamie Vardy announcing his retirement from international football last week, Rashford now has less competition for his role within the England set-up, although he was preferred to the Leicester striker more often than not in Russia thanks to his ability to play out wide.
Rashford has posted pictures to his social media accounts this week showing him staying behind after training to practice, so keen is he to improve on his game and show his commitment to manager Gareth Southgate.
If selected on Saturday to play Spain, he will face club teammate David de Gea, who will be looking to put the memories of the World Cup behind him. But there will be no love lost from Rashford’s perspective, with him hoping to impress both Southgate and Mourinho given that he won’t be able to feature for United again until the end of September.
Some reports have suggested that the player is growing weary with his lack of game time under Mourinho, but it’s important to remember that this is the manager who has given Rashford more appearances than anyone else during his two years at the club, as well as bestowing the No.10 shirt on him at the beginning of this season.
“He wanted it,” Mourinho revealed last month.
“He always wanted it. Of course, he respected the big Rooney and then Zlatan wanted to have it. Of course, he was in the shadow, waiting for the opportunity and now the shirt is empty. It’s something fantastic for the kid, let’s give the shirt to him.”
It is clear that Rashford has potential and has benefited from the experience of playing alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku. The latter equalled Didier Drogba’s Premier League goal haul last weekend, despite playing in fewer games and spending most of his career at mid-table clubs like Everton and West Brom.
This will be invaluable experience for Rashford but there’s only so long he will be prepared to play second fiddle when he knows he’s got the ability to shine.
Thankfully, there are several factors for him biding his time at United and doing all he can to nail down a starting place in the meantime.
He’s still only 20-years-old, which is hard to believe given it feels as though he has been around for years, so those close to him would be wise to advise him to be patient. He could likely play more football at a smaller club but it’s rare for someone as young as him to star at a club the size of United.
It’s worth remembering that United is his boyhood club too, the team he has played for since he was seven, so he won’t be in any rush to give up the opportunity to spend the rest of his career scoring goals in front of the Stretford End.
Rashford also has the fans on side, with the travelling away end singing “like Manchester, Rashford is red!” before he even came on the pitch against Burnley at the weekend. This is a club that takes huge pride in their academy players, with United approaching the 81st anniversary year of including a former youth player in every single match-day squad, and Rashford is the biggest talent they’ve seen from their ranks for some time.
“In training is where I’m doing most of my learning,” Rashford said last season. “There’s lots of things (I’m learning). It is just the all-round game is starting to become more clear. Things this manager wants are becoming more clear to me. The more you do, the easier the results come on the pitch. 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 it. But my experiences of the past – I understand that’s part of the game. There are 11 players that start, it’s just one of those things.”
That said, Rashford will likely be enjoying his time with the England squad, where he can hope for a good amount of minutes on the pitch, and where he can hopefully impress Mourinho for his return.
Rashford’s first game back after suspension will be Derby in the League Cup where he will almost certainly start. He will already be thinking about opening his goal account for the season that day and working his way in to the manager’s long-term plans for the campaign ahead. His future is bright, and United fans will be hoping that his future is in red.