A little something on the side

17 Oct

Being a professional footballer can’t be the most taxing life, can it?  Pick a colour for the leather interior of your Testarossa.  Watch Salt Bae bounce several ounces of salt off his forearm onto your dinner.  Ponder whether you’re going to skip the post-match handshake with Callum Robinson on Sunday.  The calm waters of being a supremely athletic youthful millionaire are rarely troubled.

Pity poor Marcus Rashford, then.  How easy is it to focus on passing drills when you’re mentally tethered to the 4.3 million children in Britain living below the poverty line?  What a burden.  Football might even seem a little insignificant by comparison.  And if that’s not enough, Rashford’s manager actually thinks he’s doing too much on the extra-curricular front.  Ole Gunnar wants less school-age dinners and more last minute winners.

“Marcus has done some remarkable and fantastic things,” Solskjaer told the press as Rashford returns from a shoulder operation, “… but now he maybe needs to prioritise his football”.  Oof.  That one hit harder than a Rashford tweet aimed at a Tory front-bencher.

In many respects, this was classic Fergie-inspired “concentrate on your football” rhetoric.  With Lee Sharpe, the job was to keep him out of the nightclubs.  With Eric, it was the away end.  With Rashford, it’s G7 summits.  Put that famished ten year old down, Marcus.

———

It’s an interesting, if possibly unfair, point that Solskjaer is making.  The name Marcus Rashford certainly conjures up more on the social justice front than it does professional football at the moment.  But it’s equally thought provoking that, of the presumably many outside interests Solskjaer’s squad of players must surely have, this is the one that irks him.  Paul Pogba changes his hairstyle three times a day.  Cristiano Ronaldo’s life ambition is to star on the cover of Men’s Health every month.  Harry Maguire likes to holiday.  It’s hardly as though Rashford is skipping training to visit food banks.  What’s Ole particularly got against children sleeping on a full stomach?

———

Chances are, being the masterclass tactician that Solskjaer is, the canny Norwegian recognises the deeper point for contemplation here; the Malthusian question emerging.  How good does Marcus Rashford have to be at football to help the most children?  The sheer scale of Rashford’s philanthropic endeavours depends to a very large extent on him continuing to have a successful top-flight career.  Playing for Manchester United adds seven figures of followers onto your social media account and provides a platform to change the world.  Some terrific charity work is undertaken in the lower leagues of English football, but the star striker of Macclesfield Town is unlikely to be granted an audience with Boris Johnson any time soon.

Imagine, then, the pressure on Rashford.  The stress.  Every below-par performance putting lives at risk.  Every missed chance a Findus crispy pancake that never makes it onto the dinner plate.  Football was never a matter of life and death regardless of whatever deluded nonsense ventured out of Bill Shankly’s mouth, but in Marcus’ case it just might be.

———

The free school meals crusade certainly wasn’t a one-off gesture, that’s for sure.  Rashford is delving further into the world of social welfare, this time with a focus on getting more kids to read.  And while it’s, shall we say, interesting that someone so keen on literacy campaigning doesn’t seem to actually write any of his own social media posts, Rashford’s intentions are undoubtedly sincere.

———

Maybe, for the best of everyone’s sake, Solskjaer is right to put up some boundaries on Rashford’s extra curricular activities.  “I” before “e”, but not on matchdays.  Relevancy is not a myth.  Divorce the sports star from the sport and you’re not left with much.  Kournikova taught us that.  And Attlee and Bevin didn’t have the distraction of midweek European games.

Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and a certain Portuguese returnee are all competing with Rashford for places this year.  He needs to be focussed.  It’s impossible to say for sure how many packed lunches it would take for Ronaldo to forgive an over-hit through ball, but you suspect it’s a lot.  There’s only so many seats at the dinner table of the United starting XI and the reality, unseemly as it may be, is it’s performances on the pitch that will allow Rashford to have the greatest impact off it.

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5 Responses to “A little something on the side”

  1. The Gooch October 21, 2021 at 11:37 am #

    Spit on your hand and rectum me stupid.

  2. The Silent Witness October 24, 2021 at 11:04 am #

    Insert Lego pieces up my arse and build a battleship.

  3. Martin Samuel October 24, 2021 at 11:10 am #

    Poor content, badly written.

  4. Private Dancer November 1, 2021 at 10:27 pm #

    I have diarrhea more often than I don’t.

  5. The Raj November 12, 2021 at 7:15 pm #

    If blogs could smell this one would stink like my toilet bowl after my napper has squeezed out last nights Balti.

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