Marcus Rashford couldn’t stomach Man City celebrations but England remain united
Marcus Rashford could not bring himself to watch Manchester City lift the Champions League – but the Manchester United star says club rivalries are left at the door with England thanks to the group’s “strong bond”.
Erik ten Hag’s arrival sparked a marked improvement in the red half of Manchester this season, with February’s Carabao Cup triumph followed up by a third-placed finish in the Premier League.
But City stopped United ending their campaign on a high at Wembley by winning the first all-Manchester FA Cup final as they stayed on track to replicate their rivals’ historic 1999 treble triumph.
Pep Guardiola’s men did just that by beating Inter Milan in Saturday’s Champions League final – a match Rashford watched on TV, although there was only so much he could stomach.
Put to the forward that Trent Alexander-Arnold turned off the TV when United won the FA Cup as he could not bear to watch Liverpool’s rivals lift silverware, Rashford said: “It’s exactly the same.
“I like watching football, I like watching the best games so that’s what I did.
“But after they win the game, I don’t need to watch them celebrating and all that stuff, so yeah, TV off!”
City’s treble understandably sticks in the craw but there appears little chance of club rivalries impacting England like they did with previous generations.
“It is going to be funny,” Rashford said of the conversations he was expecting with the quintet on international duty.
“But, like I said, it’s congratulations to them and, for me, they deserved it, they played the best football this year.
“There’s not much more to say about it, really. The talking’s done on the pitch and they did really well this year.”
Asked if it is a strength of the England squad to go from bantering about club matters to playing well together, Rashford said: “Yeah, I think definitely that’s a part of it.
“But there’s a strong bond in this squad and there has been regardless of which players come in and that’s down to the environment.
“There’s not much more I can put it down to, so we’re looking forward to having them back here.
“They’re obviously all really good players and we need them if we want our squad to be as strong as possible.”
While club allegiances will not put a spoke in England’s wheel, Rashford does not hide from questions about United’s place in the pecking order.
For so long the dominant force in English football, the 20-time league champions are now playing second fiddle in their own city.
On the desire to be top dogs once more, Rashford said: “I think that was always the aim regardless of their success this year or the previous years.
“Let’s be honest, it’s not anything new – the only thing that’s new is that they managed to win all three.
“They are a very good team and it’s not just us that are trying to catch up to them, it’s pretty much every team as well.
“Is it a challenge? Yeah, but we can’t shy away from it. We have to face it and do our best next season.”
Rashford says United’s players and staff spoke in the dressing room after the FA Cup final about the need to kick on again as the 2023-24 campaign quickly comes into focus.
There are only 23 days between Rashford, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw playing in England’s final June qualifier against North Macedonia at Old Trafford on Monday and United playing their first pre-season match.
It is a far cry from the full summer of preparation Rashford enjoyed last year, which provided a platform for him to bounce back from the most challenging campaign of his career.
The rejuvenated 25-year-old went onto score a career best 30 goals in all competitions under Ten Hag, who the United forward credits for changing the mindset of the group and helping him find his fire again.
“He came in and he wanted to win,” Rashford said. “I feel like at times we have lacked that ambition, as I’ve said before.
“He wasn’t caring about getting into the top four, doing any of that – he just wanted to win trophies and when you strive for the best sometimes you are going to fall short as we did in areas this season.
“But you have to look at the outcome. We managed to win a trophy and get back into the Champions League spots, get to another final and it’s definitely a progression from the previous year, or couple of years before.
“He just managed to motivate me and just relight the flame that was missing.”
Ten Hag’s United have put things in place to close the gap to City next season, but the interminable takeover saga continues to provide a dark, uncertain cloud over the Old Trafford giants.
Asked if it is easy to block out the constant noise about it, Rashford said: “For me, yeah, because I am here with the national team, like I don’t want to be worrying about what’s going on in Manchester and stuff like that.
“For me, it’s just the importance on these next two games and getting the job done while also doing it as well as we can.”