With 46 appearances for his club and his country in less than six months, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is pushing his body to the limit in a condensed soccer season like no other.
He’d have it no other way.
“It’s the life of a footballer — we can rest when we retire,” Rashford said Wednesday, a day before appearance No. 47 when United plays AC Milan in the highest-profile match in the Europa League’s last 16.
“For now, I’m happy playing as many games as I can.”
There’s a chance, if United goes deep in the Europa League and the FA Cup, of a further 18 matches for his club this season. Throw in England’s three World Cup qualifiers this month as well as the European Championship starting in June, and no wonder there are fears of burnout when it comes to Rashford and United’s other stars like Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire.
Rashford is reportedly delaying surgery on a nagging shoulder injury until after Euro 2020 and said he was happy to play through the pain barrier.
“I just focus on the next game at hand, that’s just the way I deal with it,” he said. “What’s needed after, we’ll deal with after. My main focus is just being available for the games as much as I can.
“I know my body and I know what I can do physically.”
Indeed, his priority is winning trophies with United, which hasn’t happened for nearly four years now — since capturing the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.
United’s chances of silverware this season rest on the Europa League — the team is tied 1-1 with Milan heading into the second leg in Italy on Thursday — and the FA Cup, where Leicester lies in wait in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the semifinals have been the ceiling for United in cup competitions and Rashford said it’s time to put that right.
“We unfortunately got kicked out of the Champions League and our focus was to win the Europa League,” he said, “and we are not going to be happy with anything less than that.
“That is the atmosphere and culture at this club,” he added. “We need to start doing it now, winning trophies and taking steps in that direction.”
Solskjaer sees being second in the Premier League, 14 points behind champion-elect Manchester City, as a sign of progress by United given his team finished in third place last season, 33 points behind first-place Liverpool. He pointed out United has 12 more points in the league compared to this stage last season.
“Sometimes a trophy can hide the other facts that are happening in the club,” he said. “It’s in the league you see if you are progressing, really. Sometimes in the cup competitions, you might be lucky, you might be unlucky.
“Any cup competition can give you a trophy, but sometimes it is more of an ego thing for managers and clubs.”
Paul Pogba could return for the second leg against Milan after more than a month out with a thigh injury.