MANCHESTER, England — Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has launched a fierce defence of his use of Marcus Rashford by insisting “he is not Dominic Solanke or Ruben Loftus-Cheek” while hitting out at “compulsive liars.”
Rashford, who is suspended for Saturday’s trip to Watford, scored twice for England during the international break prompting suggestions he should be play more regularly for his club.
But Mourinho, speaking at a news conference at Carrington on Friday, has hit back at his critics — including Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher — by reading off a pre-prepared list of the 20-year-old’s statistics since he took over as manager in 2016 that took more than four minutes to get through.
“If you don’t mind losing a couple of minutes, I’m going to do something not for you [the media] but the United fans and I think I hold myself to the United fans and for them I am going to spend two minutes with you,” Mourinho began.
“In 2016-17, Marcus Rashford played 32 Premier League matches, 11 Europa League matches, including the final, three FA Cup matches, six League Cup matches and the Community Shield.
“He had 53 appearances, but if you want to take the minutes of play, he played 3,068 and if you want to divide that by 90 minutes matches, he played 34.2 matches of 90 minutes matches in 2016-17.
“In 2017-18, 35 Premier League matches, eight in the Champions League, five in FA Cup, three League Cup matches and the European Super Cup final.
“He played a total of 52 matches with 2,676 minutes, if you divide that by 90 minutes, gives 29.7 matches.
“So with me, in two seasons, he had 105 appearances, 5,774 mins, 63.7 matches of 90 minutes, including five finals, so the people that are speaking about these minutes, I think they are a bit confused.
“Marcus Rashford is not Dominic Solanke.
“He is not Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he is not Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
“He is Marcus Rashford, a Manchester United player, with an incredible number of appearances and an incredible number of minutes played at the highest level in the best possible competitions.
“So Manchester United supporters, for you and just for you, to know what we are doing with Marcus Rashford, that’s what we are doing here.”
Rashford will miss the game at Vicarage Road on Saturday evening after he was sent off during the 2-0 win over Burnley.
Tongue in cheek, Mourinho said he is still expecting criticism when the forward was not in the team against Watford.
“I think I can expect that Sunday I’m going to be highly criticised for not playing him because some of the boys are really obsessed with me and some of them have a problem with some compulsive lies,” added Mourinho.
“I can expect that Sunday some of them will wake up in the morning and the first thing they think is Jose Mourinho, so I can imagine on Sunday I am going to be criticised for not playing Marcus but it’s not my fault, he’s suspended.
“Probably you should remind them he is suspended and cannot play. His performances with England, of course I’m happy, he played well, competed well, he scored and especially in a period where he comes with some sadness after his suspension it was very good that he did that.”
Since Alexis Sanchez arrived at Old Trafford in January, Rashford has made eight starts for United and just one this season. Solanke is yet to feature for Liverpool this season while Loftus-Cheek has not started for Chelsea.
Carragher suggested after England’s 1-0 win over Switzerland on Tuesday that Rashford may have to leave Old Trafford to play more regularly and fulfil his potential and Mourinho, clearly, was not impressed.
“Some of the persons, everybody knows they have double salaries, they work also for the clubs and of course they are not independent and they conduct things in the direction they want, that’s obvious, human, is natural, not ethical but I accept it,” said Mourinho.
“The ones that wake up in the morning and the first thing that comes into their mind is Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, I feel sorry for them.
“But for the Manchester United supporters it is important they have the right idea of how things are in reality but the most important thing of all is that the kid is a good kid, a good player, knows what Manchester United did for him.
“Since I was here, he was never one day out of selection because of my decision, only if he was injured or suspended.
“He was never ever out of a selection, so he knows and that’s the most important thing.
“But the media is very important and it is very important Manchester United supporters know the truth, that’s why I’m going so specific about these numbers.”
Mourinho also said Luke Shaw is free to face Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday after recovering from a head injury but is set to wait before deciding whether the defender will play.
Shaw was carried off during England’s defeat to Spain and missed the win over Switzerland at Leicester on Tuesday. He returned to Carrington on Monday but Mourinho admits the 23-year-old is a doubt to face Watford, who have started the season with 12 points from four games.
Marouane Fellaini, who withdrew from the Belgium squad with a back problem, and Ander Herrera, who has an ankle injury, are also doubts.
“I don’t know [if he will play],” said Mourinho. “Contrary to some news, to some opinions by the protocol point of view and according to our doctor, he will be free to play.
“The only situation we have to analyse is if you are going to play him when during the week he was not training with the team.”