There is never a dull moment at a Jose Mourinho news conference these days, and so it proved once more on Friday. The Manchester United manager unleashed a barrage of statistics to defend the amount of playing time given to England striker Marcus Rashford as pundits far and wide have claimed the 20-year-old is not getting enough action at Old Trafford and he is playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku for United.
The youngster is not going to be adding to his 122 minutes in the top flight so far this season, with one start, as he is banned for Saturday’s game at Watford after being sent off in the last game at Burnley.
That did not deter Mourinho — who claimed that certain “obsessed” sections of the media “have a problem with some compulsive lies” and would criticise him anyway — as clearly wanted to set the record straight.
For those in the audience at the conference who were “a bit confused”, Mourinho flooded his meeting with the media on Friday with more figures than a Star Wars fan’s attic and more statistics than Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack in a staunch defence of the amount of time Rashford has played.
I won’t go into the details of every stat he reeled out as that would take up this entire column, needless to say he mentioned a mini-biography of Rashford’s action for United over the past two years in a 276-second oration.
Now, this might sound like another rambling diatribe to cover up his shortcomings and paper over any discord in the dressing room, but the numbers actually do add up and Rashford has, on paper at least, had plenty of time on the pitch compared to other players his own age across the league.
Indeed, the football number-crunchers at Opta have confirmed that no player currently aged under 21 has played more competitive minutes of club football for a Premier League team than Marcus Rashford (7,280 minutes) since his debut in February 2016.
So, maybe the international break allowed the Portuguese manager a little time to do his homework on the situation as he must have known the question on Rashford was coming after he scored two goals for England in the past week.
Interestingly, the now immortalised Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season at Old Trafford saw him make 15 starts in 29 Premier League appearances.
Rashford’s first full season in the top flight under Mourinho saw him make 32 Premier League appearances, with 16 starts.
Touche, Jose … touche!
In true Mourinho style, he may have just left one little fib out there though when he said he felt “sorry” for the reporters who “wake up in the morning and the first thing that comes into their mind is Jose Mourinho and Manchester United ... because there are much more interesting things to wake up and to be happy about in the morning”.
I somehow don’t think they really get too much of his sympathy.