Solskjaer responds to "confusion" over his comments on Rashford
Marcus Rashford was told to "prioritise" football last week, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists his comments were misinterpreted.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his recent comments about where he thinks Marcus Rashford's priorities should lie and taken a swipe at the media for misinterpreting his words.
Rashford, who has been recovering from a shoulder injury, returned to make his first appearance of the season as United lost 4-2 at Leicester City at the weekend. In his pre-match news conference on Friday, Solskjaer appeared to use a figure of speech that was used to undermine Rashford's charitable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic by certain sections of society, urging him to "prioritise playing football".
Solskjaer said: "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."
Rashford's charity work
Many considered Solskjaer's comments to be a veiled criticism of Rashford's off-the-pitch endeavours, which helped raise enough money for the FareShare charity to distribute the equivalent of more than 21 million meals to struggling children and families. His continued efforts saw him honoured as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and he also became the youngest ever recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Manchester.
Media speculation suggested Rashford and his entourage were annoyed by Solskjaer's comments last week, and ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Atalanta, the Norwegian addressed the "elephant in the room" immediately with the 23-year-old sat next to him.
"We are so unbelievably proud of what Marcus has done off the pitch," he began. "You [journalists] know what was said and you made headlines out of one little comment that I never intended to be the focus. I was speaking about Marcus and how it must be nice for the boy to be going into training not focusing on his shoulder or ankle or his back, and I think you know that. Now he can just enjoy his football. So, no questions on that, I just wanted to start with that one."
Difficult time for United
The awkward headlines came at a particularly troubling time for United and Solskjaer as they have endured an underwhelming start to 2021-22 that has comprised of just five wins in 11 matches across all competitions. Solskjaer is under increasing pressure with performances leaving a lot to be desired, and his job security was a key subject during Tuesday's news conference. But he mostly cut a calm figure as he faced the tough questions.
"It doesn't affect me but of course you see some of the comments," he said when asked about Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher's assessment United should have a better manager than Solskjaer. "We've got Liverpool on Sunday as well, so Jamie is always looking at these little things. I've got my values, my way of managing, I believe in myself. As long as the club believes in me, I'm pretty sure Jamie Carragher's opinion isn't going to change that. We've progressed over the years. Since I was here for half a season, we've finished third, second – you could see progress, development. This season we still want to improve. We signed players who raised expectations. There's pressure on me of course, but we've come through this before stronger as individuals and as a team. I'm in dialogue with the club all the time, so that's an open and honest discussion all the time."