Jose Mourinho believes Marcus Rashford is a victim of inflated expectations but insists the striker’s place in England’s World Cup squad should not be under threat because he is currently struggling to hold down a regular first team place at Manchester United.
Rashford last started a Premier League match for United in the 2-2 draw at home to Burnley on Boxing Day and has played just 311 minutes of football since then, only 128 minutes of which have come in the league.
The 20-year-old’s chances have been restricted in part by the arrival of Chile forward Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal in January while Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have all been ahead of him in the pecking order of late.
Gareth Southgate, the England manager, is known to be worried about the amount of time Rashford is spending on the substitutes’ bench with the World Cup finals in Russia only four months away.
Southgate still intends to name Rashford in his squad for this month’s friendlies against Holland and Italy but hopes the striker will soon force his way back into United’s first team after previously stating that he will only pick players who are playing regularly for their clubs.
But Mourinho says Rashford will go to Russia if Southgate believes in him.
“I don’t reassure anyone but the main reassurance for him [Rashford] is that he is always selected,” the United manager said. “There is not one single match when Marcus is not selected to start or to be on the bench.
“When I see you sometimes put in doubt if he is going to be selected for the World Cup, or not selected, you know, if the national coach trusts him, he selects him. It doesn’t matter if he plays or doesn’t play.
“There are many examples of players who don’t play for their clubs at all and they go to their national teams. You have the example of Sergio Romero, who is the second goalkeeper at Manchester United and the first goalkeeper for such an amazing football country like Argentina.
“In your own country, you have examples of players who play even without scoring a goal in the Premier League. So it’s up to Gareth Southgate. If he trusts him, he selects him. It doesn’t matter if he plays or if he doesn’t play for Manchester United.”
Mourinho also believes Rashford’s electrifying emergence, when he scored seven goals in his first 12 games for United in 2016 and on his debut for England against Australia, has served only to raise expectations.
“At his age, what he’s doing is more than enough and the experience he’s getting at every level is more than enough for us to be happy with what we think is going to be his future,” Mourinho said. “But because he had such an impact at the beginning, probably people expect him to play even more than he does, and score even more than he does and perform even more than what he does but it is not so simple.
“What I see makes me really happy, to see the same boy. Marcus is a fantastic boy, also very grounded. For sure, we love him and we believe in him, and he’s going to have the chances.
“The good thing with Marcus is that he can play in the three attacking positions, so even when he doesn’t start, to have him on the bench is such a security for me and for the team. He’s a fantastic option for us.”
United will be without defenders Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind and midfielders Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, all of whom are injured, against Palace. Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still not ready to return.
Manchester United possible XI vs Crystal Palace (4-3-3): De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; McTominay, Matic, Pogba; Martial, Lukaku, Sánchez.