Jose Mourinho has explained why Marcus Rashford has been very impressive at Manchester United this season, pointing towards the way he goes about dealing with pressure.
The 19-year-old was a crucial factor in Man United’s Europa League triumph, claiming the winner against Anderlecht in the quarter final and an important away goal against Celta Vigo in the last four.
He couldn’t add to his tally in Stockholm, but his attitude throughout was evocative of the stellar, highly organised nature of Man United’s overall display against Ajax.
And Mourinho, speaking after the game, was full of praise for the youngster’s indomitable attitude in Stockholm and indeed during the entire campaign.
“For me what’s more difficult [as a manager] is the fragile mentality,” he said.
“I think it’s probably my weakness as a manager, that it’s difficult for me to understand people with a different mentality to what I have. It’s difficult to understand so it takes me time to understand and sometimes I’m not able to feel attracted again [to the player].
“Sometimes I ask my assistants to help me on that because maybe they have a different profile to me. Because for me I want to be in love with the player with this character, with this personality and that kid Marcus is the best example of it, especially in this club.
“As players, you have to have that responsibility every day and it’s something my boys have to learn.
“Some of them they can win a big match. What I think they can’t do is win it and win it and win it and cope with that intensity, especially that mental intensity, the focus, the concentration, the responsibility, the determination. This is something you only learn when you are at the highest level.
“I try to do it [teach and transfer it] in relation to the personality of the players. For example, what I love about this kid Marcus is he copes with the pressure. I can press him, I can be very demanding with him, he’s the kind of kid that when the training session finishes it doesn’t finish for him. He wants more. He lives for football.
“He was, of course, a tornado, when he arrived last season without pressure. No responsibility. And this season when the pressure was on him, when he was not scoring goals for one, two, three, four months, he coped with that pressure. This is the kind of character I like. I like to squeeze the player and the player to cope with it and react to it.”
The fact that Rashford has received more appearances (53) than anybody else this season is a powerful testament to the trust Mourinho has in his ability and dedication to the cause. If anything, the teenager’s constant presence in the side has demonstrated that, under Mourinho, players are not picked on the pretext of experience or pedigree, but instead on how well they apply themselves.
His tussle with the 17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt and the brilliant Davinson Sánchez, aged just 20, was an invigorating spectacle of the very best of what today’s youth had to offer, and it was a tussle that saw Rashford claim his third major trophy in 15 months.