As he faced the media in his press conference the continental manager in charge of one of the most successful clubs in English football, who’s red adorned fans were the envy of the world, pulled out a piece of paper. It was time to set the record straight he decided, enough was enough. Here were some facts…
Rafa Benitez then duly delivered a speech that more or less consigned his aura of coolness under pressure to the dustbin of history and his timing couldn’t have been worse. When he criticised “Mr Ferguson” Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool side were sitting pretty at the top of the table, by the time the ink had dried on the many articles written ridiculing “Rafa’s rant” United had leapfrogged them in the league and never looked back- well almost never. When Sir Alex Ferguson’s side faced Aston Villa at Old Trafford, Liverpool were again the league leaders, but could be overtaken if the Reds beat the visitors, something they’d done time and time again at Old Trafford. Yet as the final whistle approached the score was 2-2 meaning Liverpool still held the advantage but Mr Ferguson, well actually Sir Alex Ferguson threw on a 17 year-old named Kiko Macheda- and the rest is history.
Putting faith in youth is something that’s served United well since the days of Sir Matt Busby’s babes, through to Louis van Gaal’s Army -albeit in the latter case it was a small shimmer of light in an otherwise dark period. Alan Hansen’s remark “You can’t win anything with kids” is almost the exact opposite of fact when it comes to United- which made his comments all the more hilarious especially as that season the youthful “class of 92” swept all before them.
Like Benitez brandishing his piece of paper like a latter day Neville Chamberlain, Jose Mourinho did the same when he was unveiled as United boss, only this time his note had a list of youngsters he’d put faith in during his time as a manager rather than a list of Fergie’s misdemeanours. Mourinho claimed his reputation for not trusting youth was unfounded, well if that’s the case now he has the perfect chance to prove it in this weekend’s derby.
Marcus Rashford’s recent goal against Hull and his hat-trick for the England under 21 side have underlined his talent and how it’s imperative he’s given the chance to shine. Let’s not forget the teenager was the only goalscorer the last time City and United faced each other and it’s almost unthinkable that a few months and more goals later, he’s not going to be allowed to make his mark in the game for which a boy from Wythenshawe with the skill of a Brazilian seems destined.
This weekend’s game could go some way to deciding the title and United need their strongest side, which if we’re brutally honest contains the England under 21 star.
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If Jose really is serious about giving youth a chance – and he understands the psyche of the majority of United fans who adore Rashford not just for his talent but also because it’s a homegrown talent, then he simply cannot deny the youngster his chance. Mourinho has to start Rashford, there’s simply no other choice, whether it means dropping Wayne Rooney, playing Zlatan deeper and Rashford up top, or if Juan Mata makes way and Rashford operates from the wing. Either way, Rashford has to play.