Mourinho refuses to rush Rashford after star cameo - Young gun has 'perfect head for an 18-year-old' but United boss determined to keep lid on hype
Hull City 0 Manchester Utd 1
Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30
Dropped from the starting line-up at Manchester United and demoted to the England U-21 squad as a result, it has not been an easy start to the season for Marcus Rashford, but rather than complain, or sulk, the teenager is continuing to win games for his team.
According to United manager Jose Mourinho, Rashford is being handled correctly.
The Portuguese is still irritated by accusations that he is not interested in bringing through young players, that he neither has the patience nor the desire to gamble on potential, and is visibly riled whenever Rashford's failure to start games is mentioned.
But rather than criticise Mourinho for dropping Rashford to make room for the 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, perhaps we should applaud him. This is a delicate point in the teenager's career, full of possible pitfalls, distractions and risks.
At 18, Rashford was the Premier League's breakthrough star last season, but United are more aware than most of how fragile young men can be, especially when there is a danger of early success swelling their ego.
Rashford is still learning and, although he changed the game against Hull when he came on with 19 minutes remaining and eventually won it with a goal in the second minute of injury time, converting an excellent cross from another former wonderkid, Wayne Rooney, United are wary of the hype surrounding him.
Mourinho does not avoid questions about Rashford, but he avoids been drawn into lengthy discussions and is not interested in comparing him to anyone else. He has even welcomed the decision by new England manager Sam Allardyce to drop him from the senior squad.
Asked whether he was the best young English player he has worked with, Mourinho preferred to talk about how level-headed he is.
"I don't want to go in that direction," replied Mourinho. "I just want to say that he's a very good player and a very good boy. He has the perfect head for an 18-year-old, very stable, not on the moon, so I think he has everything.
"I think if he went with the full England squad, Sam would put him on the bench. Can he help the first team to win matches like he's helping Manchester United? I think he can.
"But for me, from a selfish point of view, thinking just about me and the evolution of my player, I prefer him to play matches with the U-21s. It's very good for him to be on the pitch for 90 minutes.
"But Sam knows that if he needs the kid, he has the kid. But I think he has so many strikers that, this time, he chose not to select him and we respect that, so the kid goes with the U-21s with the best mentality."
Rooney is well placed to judge the situation, as someone who has heard people, including his former team-mate Paul Scholes, argue that he is suffering in the twilight of his career because he played too much first-team football when he was 16.
"Marcus is a fantastic player," said Rooney. "He's one of the brightest talents in European football. I'm sure his chance will come. He did brilliantly when he came on and got his goal. He's an important player for us.
"It's a huge honour for him to play for England. It was a big moment for him to go to the Euros and it's still important for his development to go and play with the U-21s.
"It's important that he gets games because he hasn't played that much. I think it will be good for him. He knows that and he understands that and his time will come and he will get his chance for Manchester United and England.
"We know he is a special talent - we saw it last season," he added. "He's a young lad and it's important not to get too carried away.
"Sometimes it's hard to do that because he's such a talented player but we need to as players and team-mates try to guide him through it and let him focus on the football."
It had been one of those days for United until Rashford once again proved his ability to provide sunshine after the rain.
Hull had parked the bus Mourinho resembled a man who had missed one, with his hair and coat soaked from a frustrating evening spent in the KCOM Stadium technical area.
But just as United's winning start to the campaign looked set to be halted by Mike Phelan's dogged Hull, Rashford ghosted into the six yard box to strike an injury-time winner.
Rooney, who had endured a frustrating afternoon, made the goal by darting past Ahmed Elmohamady on the touchline before passing the ball to Rashford, who applied the finishing touch from close range to move United level with Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
It was tough justice for Hull, who have performed far better than anyone expected under caretaker manager Phelan, but they remain in a mess. The squad is too small, the future still uncertain, while the Allam family continue to try to sell the club. If they do not add to their squad before the transfer window closes on Wednesday - and there is not much confidence that they will - they will be in dire trouble, despite another brave performance against United that might have earned them a point.
"I think the adversity that the players have been through has come through," said Phelan. "They've shown a togetherness and grouped themselves together really well. Now some serious decisions have to be made, some urgent decisions have to be made because the transfer deadline is just around the corner.
"They deserve some more quality to come into this football club, they deserve a break. If we are going to be competitive at this level we definitely need a squad of players that can come off the bench and start for us.
"After that it's down to 'who do you want to take this club forward?' I think that's up to whoever is in charge to make that call and to make it as quickly as possible.
"I think it's now a serious time to make those decisions and make those correct calls."