Jose Mourinho paid tribute to Marcus Rashford’s “special mentality” after the teenage England striker’s stunning extra-time goal sent Manchester United into the Europa League semi-finals.
The United manager also offered Luke Shaw fresh hope in his battle to salvage his Old Trafford career after praising the England left back’s willingness to play through cramp during 30 minutes of extra-time against Anderlecht.
Rashford had led the line impressively in United’s 2-0 victory over Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday in the absence of the rested Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and with the Swede floundering here before succumbing to injury, it was left to the 19-year-old to rescue his team on a night of high tension at Old Trafford.
With Ibrahimovic uncertain to play again this term, the onus is likely to fall on Rashford to spearhead United’s attack, but while Mourinho doubts the youngster can play every game, he has no concerns about his character or ability. Rashford had not scored for over six months in the Premier League before his strike against Sunderland but United’s academy graduate now has three goals in his past four matches.
“He cannot play every game and you want to take him [to the European Under-21 Championships in the summer] but I always trust the players with a special mentality,” Mourinho said.
“That’s the reason I kept Marcus on the team all the time, he went months without scoring a goal but my trust is always based on the mentality and despite him being a kid others can look at him but we have great examples of fighters.
“You speak about his qualities and his qualities are fantastic. But he wasn’t scoring a goal since September and because of his mentality and what he gives us, even when he does not score goals, I kept confidence in him. Some other players, they don’t realise what makes me trust a player, but Marcus, I trust. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t score, he’s fantastic in his attitude.”
Mourinho was similarly effusive in his praise of Shaw, who played 120 minutes despite his lack of football this season as he fights for the Portuguese’s approval.
“Luke Shaw today did something new for me, that means a lot to me,” Mourinho said. “After 90 minutes before I knew that I would have to change Zlatan I had Ashley Young ready to come on. But Luke told me, ‘I will play 30 minutes with cramps’. These sort of things make me trust the players.”