Marcus Rashford has had limited playing opportunities since Christmas
The 20-year-old striker may not like it but he accepts that he has to convince his hard-to-please manager he is worthy of a place with his work on the training ground and by making an impact when he gets an opportunity in the team.
After his stunning double against Liverpool in his first Premier League start since Boxing Day and in front of hugely-encouraged England manager Gareth Southgate, it will be hard for Mourinho to leave him out now, despite the glittering array of attacking talent at his disposal.
But do not bet on it. Rashford was denied the chance of a possible hat-trick by Mourinho, who true to his pragmatic philosophy, took account of his first half booking and sent on Marouane Fellaini – a player who could break up Liverpool’s flow – by “making a foul” with 20 minutes left.
It was not popular with the fans but Fellaini played a big part in helping United survive Liverpool’s late pressure and clinch a vital victory in the chase to be best of the rest.
Mourinho loves Rashford’s down-to-earth attitude and rates him highly as a huge player for United’s future. But he also clearly believes in the ‘tough love’ approach towards a youngster who admits he still has much to learn.
In football you are going to be up, you’re going to be down
Asked if Mourinho had spoken to him to explain why he does not always start him, Rashford replied: “He doesn’t have to. When you are younger than I am and you are learning the game I think you do need it.
“But my experiences from the past mean I understand that’s part of the game. There are only 11 players that can start – it’s just one of the those things.
“It is something you have been through before. If it happens again you will probably deal with it better than the first time it happened to you. It is just another experience.
“In football you are going to be up, you’re going to be down. The most important thing is sticking together as a squad. Everyone turns up every day for training, we all work hard, we all do the necessary things.
“We are all in it together. Sometimes you are in the team, sometimes you are not in the team.”
Marcus Rashford scored a brace against Liverpool
Academy graduate Rashford says he is also beginning to grasp the tactical appreciation of the game that Mourinho has always demanded from his players.
“Right now I’m probably not learning the most on the pitch,” he said. “It is in training where I’m doing most of my learning. What am I learning? There’s lots of things. It is just the all-round game is starting to become more clear. Things this manager wants is becoming more clear to me. The more you do that, the easier the results come on the pitch.
“You have to take it into the game and today it worked. Personally, taking the confidence from this game into the next games is important.”
Rashford holds Romelu Lukaku – who played a big part in both of his goals – as a good example.
“His determination to improve is the biggest feature I’ve picked up from his game,” said Rashford. “He’s always wanting to improve. He always wants to better himself. When he’s doing it, it pushes others to be better. It is a massive boost to have him at the club.”
Jose Mourinho’s side are now strong favourites to seal second place
And if he ever feels sorry for himself, ‘big brother’ Jesse Lingard – another Academy graduate who has made the first team breakthrough in recent seasons – soon goes to work on him.
“You can’t be depressed around me,” said Lingard. “I’m always winding him up. It’s good that you can be around him to have a laugh and re-assure him that it’s going to come good and that if he gets a chance he will perform and he has done that today.
“He knows he has to be patient. It’s a big club with big players and for players like me and Marcus it’s going to be tough to start every game but once you are on the pitch you have got to make an impact and maybe next game you will be playing. But you’ve got to always work hard and he does.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp set aside his frustration that Sadio Mane should have had a penalty when brought down by Fellaini to take the positives out of Liverpool’s defeat.
“We deserved a draw,” said Klopp. “It is rare you can turn round a 2-0 deficit against Manchester Untied but we were close and we should have done it.”
Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Valencia 6, Smalling 7, Bailly 7, Young 7; McTominay 7, Matic 7, Mata 7 (Lingard 88) Rashford 9 (Fellaini 69, 6), Lukaku 8, Sánchez 6 (Darmian 90). Booked: Rashford, Valencia. Goals: Rashford 14, 26. NEXT UP: Sevilla (h), Tuesday CL.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius 6; Alexander-Arnold 5 (Wijnaldum 80, 5), Lovren 5, Van Dijk 6, Robertson 7 (Solanke 84, 5); Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Lallana 62, 5) Milner 6, Can 5; Salah 5, Firmino 6, Mane 6. Booked: Oxlade-Chamberlain. Goal: Bailly (og 66). NEXT UP: Watford (h), Sat PL.
Referee: C. Pawson (S Yorks).