REVEALED: Manchester United’s toxic dressing room is dragging Marcus Rashford down amid suggestions his charity work is a distraction… and he was in bed for DAYS after Euros agony
- Marcus Rashford’s recent performances have caused concern among fans
- The Man United star’s withdrawal against Aston Villa was greeted by supporters
- Rashford, 24, has been on a steady decline since the Euro 2020 final at Wembley
- He is said to have spent days in bed and sought help from a psychologist
- Upon returning from injury, he found himself in a toxic dressing room at United
- There are also suggestions that his private life have become a distraction
With a career at his boyhood club Manchester United, a salary of £200,000 a week, a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike and an MBE at the age of 24, Marcus Rashford has every reason to be cheerful.
So, what’s wrong? What’s eating Rashford? Why does one of the most popular and talked-about young men in the country look like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now?
When he was substituted towards the end of United’s FA Cup win over Aston Villa on Monday, Rashford took his seat in the dugout and wore the thousand-yard stare of a man who is utterly lost.
Marcus Rashford’s slump in form has caused concern among Man United and England fans
It wasn’t an isolated incident either, even though a section of the crowd had turned on him moments earlier when he didn’t try harder to reach a loose ball after Emiliano Martinez saved from Mason Greenwood.
Rashford’s demeanour on the pitch and at training has been a concern at United for some time, just as much as it has become a focal point for fans and pundits.
‘A lot of times this season, it looks as if everything is a chore,’ said Alan Shearer on TV after the Villa game. ‘There’s no spark, it’s very flat.’
‘He looks disheartened,’ Dion Dublin told BBC 5 Live. ‘I haven’t seen him smile in a long time.’
Rashford tried to address the issue on social media over the weekend.
The 24-year-old had another poor game against Aston Villa and was justly substituted
When sat on the bench, Rashford wore the thousand-yard stare of someone utterly lost
‘I’m not sulking, I’m not unhappy,’ he wrote. ‘Am I disappointed in some of my recent performances? Of course I am. I’m my own biggest critic.
‘It’s been a tough start but I’m determined to prove my worth. My dedication and my desire to be here should never be in question.’
Trouble is, questions will continue to be asked while such a bright young man fades before our eyes.
Inevitably, there have been suggestions that Rashford’s charity work in feeding millions of under-privileged children during the pandemic — earning him the MBE and a doctorate from the University of Manchester — has become a distraction.
That notion is refuted by sources close to the player who insist a dedicated team takes care of that side of his affairs (Rashford’s brothers Dwaine and Dane handle his playing career) leaving him free to focus on football.
The attacker’s plight started at the Euro 2020 final, where he missed a crucial penalty
The 24-year-old sent Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way but his penalty struck the post
He is, they say, committed to United and desperate to feel valued by the manager and fans.
Rashford’s private life has also come under scrutiny after it was revealed earlier this week that he has reunited with his childhood sweetheart Lucia Loi.
The pair split in the spring of last year and got together again over Christmas, but it’s understood that the 24-year-old PR executive remained close to Marcus and was particularly supportive in the wake of the Euro 2020 final.
To track Rashford’s recent malaise, there is probably no better starting point than that game against Italy in July. He was brought on in the final moments of extra time for the specific purpose of taking a penalty and was then one of three England players who missed in the shootout.
Amid the depressing backlash that followed, it was heartening to see the abuse that was scrawled on the Rashford mural close to his boyhood home obscured by messages of love and support, but this can’t be portrayed as a positive episode in his career. Rashford has not played for his country since.
Rashford is understood to have spent days in bed and sought psychological help after the final
He spent some weeks out with a shoulder injury and returned to a toxic United environment
He is understood to have stayed in bed for days after the game and sought the help of a sports psychologist for the first time. Physically, meanwhile, Rashford was still struggling with a muscle tear in his shoulder that had hindered him the previous season.
He had surgery in August even though United were believed to be in favour of delaying, mindful that they could end up being short of forwards if Anthony Martial left and Edinson Cavani picked up an injury. These were the days before Cristiano Ronaldo returned.
While United fans happily greeted a club statement announcing Greenwood was pulling out of Euro 2020 to get fit for the new season, Rashford faced criticism for allegedly putting himself first.
He returned to action ahead of schedule in mid-October after committing to extra training sessions at Carrington, but discovered a dressing room that had turned toxic and a manager on the way out.
Rashford scored in three of his first four games back, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was gone a month later. He hasn’t scored in 11 games since and has contributed just one assist this season, as the fallout from the Old Trafford in-fighting has dragged him down.
There is a feeling that Rashford’s ability — and willingness — to play in a number of positions has worked against him under four different managers.
He is best suited to playing on the left but has operated through the middle and on the right at times. Under interim boss Ralf Rangnick, he has briefly played wing-back too.
Rashford’s charity endeavours, where he has fed millions of hungry children, has been labelled a distraction by some
The 24-year-old has also reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Lucia Loi, in recent weeks
Failure to hold down one position has affected his form and confidence on occasion. Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are not managers who tend to put an arm around the shoulder.
Solskjaer is, but when Rashford spoke with him last year, it’s said that he was told to stop moaning.
Those who know Rashford describe an essentially shy boy who wears his heart on his sleeve. They say self-doubt can easily be mistaken for attitude.
Former England manager Steve McClaren said on Tuesday: ‘United players have been criticised in the last few weeks with people saying, ‘I hate that attitude in a player’ but Rashford has had this problem throughout his career in terms of his attitude being questioned.’
The fact that a Manchester lad like Rashford should approach talks over a new contract at United feeling unsure about his future is a worrying sign of his unhappiness — and the state of the club in general.
Until that improves, smiles will be in short supply.
Rashford will begin talks over a new contract but must make a decision on his United future
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