WIn the story of Marcus Rashford’s trip to Belfast last week, there were plenty of details about what he did, from the amount of drinks he reportedly consumed to what he ordered for dinner. Imagine being a 26-year-old going through a difficult time in your career, making a bad decision and having it all splashed across newspapers and websites. Few industries are subject to this level of intervention, which is why it’s important for a young man like Rashford to find the right balance.
I will not tolerate what Rashford did. Staying in a nightclub until the early hours of the morning in Northern Ireland before calling in sick on a working day was a poor decision. Although Rashford is young by normal standards, he has been at the top of this industry for almost a decade and should understand what is acceptable and what is not.
However, footballers are valued more highly than most as they are seen as role models due to their financial success and popularity with fans. This causes people to react as if the world is ending when such situations arise. Footballers should be allowed to enjoy themselves, but Rashford’s timing was clearly naive. He knows he is recognized from Manchester to Melbourne, so it is extremely difficult to remain incognito. Nevertheless, it makes sense to leave the situation behind you. He’s not the first to get in trouble for such an event, and he certainly won’t be the last.
Rashford is struggling with his form and is unable to reach the personal bests he has achieved in recent seasons. In my experience, when everything is going well, a player’s thinking is clearer, allowing them to make better decisions on and off the field. Manchester United is a high pressure environment with extremely high expectations. His performances mean his place in the team will be tested more than it has been in years, which can be a heavy burden.
If you want to blow off some steam in almost any other job, no one outside of your immediate work environment will care. His extracurricular activities with Rashford are seen as remarkable by the whole world. Few of us can look back on our mid-20s and say we consistently made sound decisions – that’s the nature of life. We don’t have too many 26-year-old company bosses because in order to consistently make well-thought-out decisions, you have to make a few mistakes along the way. Everyone makes mistakes, you accept them, learn and move on.
It is positive to see that Rashford admitted his error in judgment and held discussions with Erik ten Hag to resolve the matter in a mutually satisfactory manner and ensure he was available for the trip to Wolves. The best way for a footballer to make amends is to be productive in games. Most indiscretions can be forgotten when someone provides value on the pitch. Ten Hag has made it clear since his appointment that the discipline of his players is an integral part of his methods and United rely on everyone coming together to realize the team’s potential. “In football you need discipline, on the field but also off the field,” said Ten Hag on Wednesday. He also said that “every top professional knows what is required.” Those who stick to the rules will be annoyed by those who flout them, although Rashford is not the first to get on the wrong side of the line at United.
There will be a sense of frustration in the United dressing room and Rashford will have to answer to teammates who may feel let down by a key member of the squad who can make the difference between winning and losing. I would be disappointed if my teammate was unable to train after visiting a nightclub, regardless of the validity of his illness. But the other part of me would think I need to get in touch with this player and find out why he did it and ask if everything else is okay in my teammate’s life. I think the human side in my thought process would come into play because you have to look out for your teammates and colleagues.
It’s a critical few months for Rashford as he looks to find form ahead of the European Championships in Germany this summer, and I suspect those headlines won’t have gone down well with Gareth Southgate. At the same time, United will be desperate to qualify for the Champions League given the Ineos investment that could bring big changes, and I’m sure Rashford will want to be at the forefront of a new era for the club with that he grew up.
Rashford was wrong and, more importantly, he knows it. He also knows that the best way to please the fans, his teammates and his coaches is to do his job to the best of his ability. Making smart decisions isn’t just about knowing when to pass or shoot; It occurs in all areas of the lives of footballers who are under scrutiny. Mistakes are part of the rich spectrum of life and the most important thing is what we learn from them.