Marcus Rashford has been urged not to be discouraged by his lack of game-time at Manchester United this season by former Red Devils striker Andy Cole.
The 20-year-old forward has found himself in and out of Jose Mourinho’s team and though he has scored 13 times for the club, only four of those have come after a goal in the Manchester derby on December 10.
A large reason for that has been his lack of opportunities. Rashford did not start a Premier League game between the Boxing Day draw with Burnley and the win over Liverpool on March 10, when he scored twice in a 2-1 United victory.
The England forward played 90 minutes in the Champions League loss to Sevilla three days later but then only appeared off the bench in the following four games.
Cole, who was part of a group of forwards Sir Alex Ferguson rotated between during the 1999 treble-winning season, understands that Rashford may have been frustrated but has implored him not to get downhearted by it.
“It’s been a sticky one for him this season, it really has,” Cole told Press Association Sport.
“(He’s had) not as many minutes as he would have liked.
“With Marcus, he has to focus his mind on learning and improving and wanting to become a better player.
“Sometimes when you don’t get minutes your mind goes elsewhere because you’re worried about getting minutes. Then, when you do come on, it’s difficult to try and get into a game or when you start you put yourself under massive pressure.
“If he’s prepared to learn and work on the things that got him into the team in the first place, he’ll be okay. You’ve got to still want to learn, still want to improve.
“It’s all about minutes. When you do something like (the Liverpool game) and get left out of the team, it’s in your nature to question yourself, why you’re not in the team.
“The first person you’ll always ask that question is to yourself. No doubt he will have been disappointed that he didn’t go on a bigger run.”
Rashford only turned 20 in October but Cole knows the level of expectation at Old Trafford means he cannot afford to stand still.
“He’s a young player, you’re still learning the game,” Cole added.
“At this club you have to learn a little bit quicker because a lot’s expected of you. A lot of young boys have got in this team and played very, very well.
“It’s a process for players like Marcus to keep learning, wanting to improve, kicking on. You have to believe in yourself, put that extra bit of graft in to become one of the best young players in the world.”
Rashford’s chances have been limited by Mourinho’s reliance on Romelu Lukaku as his central striker.
The Belgian has played over 1,000 minutes more than Rashford in the Premier League and has scored 27 goals in all competitions despite attracting criticism from some quarters.
Cole insists he has been impressed by Lukaku’s debut season at Old Trafford, which he will hope to end with an FA Cup final victory over his old club Chelsea this weekend, providing he is fit.
“I think he’s had a fantastic season; it’s not been easy to score in this team,” Cole said of Lukaku.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’ve been free-flowing, created a lot of chances, because we haven’t.
“I’ve looked at him this season. First year, he’s played all of the games, not had too much rest. For his first season I think he’s done brilliant.”
:: Andy Cole was speaking on behalf of Marathonbet, the Official Global Betting Partner to Manchester United. marathonbet.co.uk