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Rashford credits Mourinho for greater penalty area ‘savvy’

Marcus Rashford said Thursday that former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had helped him become a more “savvy” striker in terms of winning penalties.

Following Premier League champions Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat by Southampton earlier this month, a match where striker Sadio Mane was denied a spot-kick, Reds manager Jurgen Klopp said United had been given “more penalties in two years than I had in five-and-a-half years” in charge at Anfield.

But Rashford, during an interview after he received the Football Writers’ Association 2021 Tribute Award on Thursday, said the reason why United were getting plenty of penalties was down to their attack-minded approach rather than some sort of bias on the part of match officials.

“As a forward line, we want to go and score goals,” Rashford said. 

“When you are making runs in behind or you are dribbling with the ball and if you see a challenge coming, you don’t want to get tackled because you are looking at an opportunity to score a goal.

“There is no way you are going to let somebody take the ball off you, so for me it is just a case of us wanting to score goals and the teams wanting to defend goals—and you know, penalties can happen.”

The England international added a conversation with Mourinho, now in charge of top-flight rivals Tottenham Hotspur, had helped change his approach.

“But there have been times when we have probably not got penalties,” he recalled. “I remember when Jose was manager, there were five or six times I can remember where I should have had a penalty.

“Jose ended up saying to me: ‘If you are not savvy about the way you do it, then you are not going to (get) give(n) it.’ After that, we started to get a few penalties.

‘No bigger game’

United are currently top of the Premier League, three points clear of Liverpool ahead of the bitter rivals’ Anfield clash on Sunday.

They were last crowned champions of England under outgoing manager Alex Ferguson in the 2012/13 season.

But even though it has been nearly four years since Liverpool lost a league game at home—in April 2017 against Crystal Palace – while United have won just one of their last 10 matches against the Merseysiders, Rashford is relishing the task ahead of him.

“Liverpool and (Manchester) City, there are no better games,” said the 23-year-old forward, who has scored 14 goals in 28 games in all competitions this season. 

“As a kid from Manchester that supports United, there are no bigger games to score goals in. It is definitely a game I am looking forward to, like the rest of the squad.”

United have seen several managers come and go since Ferguson’s retirement but Rashford believes current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, himself a former United striker, has assembled a squad that can end their wait for another Premier League title. 

“We are more ready now than we were two years ago in terms of leaders on the pitch and ready to fight for trophies, but still we need to get our hands on those trophies,” Rashford said.

Rashford was being honoured by the FWA in recognition of his campaign to end child food poverty, having lobbied the UK government into a U-turn over ts free school meals policy in England during the first national coronavirus lockdown.

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