‘Prioritise football’: Solskjær wants returning Rashford to focus on United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjær wants Marcus Rashford to “prioritise” football for Manchester United over off-field commitments after his recovery from a long-term shoulder injury.

The 23-year-old could make a first appearance of the season at Leicester on Saturday after surgery in August. Solskjær was not suggesting Rashford has not previously been fully focused on playing but that he must allow nothing to interfere now he is fit again.

Related: Mr Nice Guy v hairdryer: the dilemma facing Solskjær before crunch games | Jamie Jackson

“I know that we will see the best of Marcus in the years to come,” the manager said. “He has done remarkable things at a young age but he is now coming into the best age for a footballer and he is more experienced. He has [had] time to reflect. You know what he has done off the pitch as well, because he has done some fantastic things, and now to prioritise, maybe prioritise his football and focus on football because he’s got a challenge on his hands here at Manchester United, he has a challenge on his hands to play for England.

“I think Marcus is one of those who takes up those challenges and is going to. He is going to express himself and his talent and he knows that we want a lot from him but we are going to give him the time to get back to what he was and what he can be.”

Rashford has campaigned against child poverty and caused two government U-turns regarding free meals for pupils. Solskjær said: “He does look fresh, he looks keen. He’s bulked up a little, some muscle. Of course he had to bear a lot of the responsibility for us because we’ve had injuries and at such a young age he’s done so much for the team and he’s done so much off the pitch as well.

“The time away for him was the time maybe to focus on himself and, I don’t want to say get back to being himself, but Marcus Rashford running around with that enthusiasm, not having to take on too much responsibility, is a great sight to see. He comes back into a different team. He’s got Jadon [Sancho] here, Mason’s [Greenwood] grown, Cristiano [Ronaldo] is here.”

Solskjær made Ronaldo a substitute for United’s 1-1 draw with Everton before the international break. The Norwegian shrugged off the view of Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s most successful manager, who was filmed saying the Portuguese should have started. “I’m quite relaxed about it,” Solskjær said. “It’s not really fair on the gaffer [Ferguson] that something like this gets broadcast. You always have opinions and speak to people in confidence. I disagreed with the gaffer a few times [when a player under him] and I told my wife a few times but that never made headlines as a player. I’m sure Sir Alex knows that it doesn’t bother me.”

Aaron Wan-Bissaka is available for Wednesday’s visit of Atalanta in the Champions League after having the final match of his ban for “rough play” in the defeat at Young Boys expunged after an appeal to Uefa.

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