When Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United in November 2022, he was effectively sacked by the club for caring too much.
While Ronaldo might have gone about his campaign in a less public manner, the Portuguese had a point when he claimed that standards at Old Trafford had fallen.
The manner he broke the news to the world at large in an unsolicited interview with Piers Morgan was inadvisable and could not be overlooked by Man Utd, but while the method of his protest was the wrong one, his message just keeps being proved to be correct.
Rashford’s reward was a shiny new contract in the summer of 2023, worth an estimated £325,000 per week or nearly £17 million per year.
Since then, the 26-year-old has become the type of player that ‘CR7’ would hate to play with.
Rashford was earmarked for criticism following a sulky performance against Newcastle in December. The England star started the game but looked thoroughly disinterested in showing any sort of industry down the wing as United crashed to a 1-0 loss in what was a lamentable display.
His lack of professionalism hit a new low last week, though.
Why was Rashford dropped?
Rashford was spotted going into a Belfast nightclub on Wednesday, and while this came before a day off, The Athletic reports that footage was seen of him out again on Thursday, hours before he missed training with Man Utd due to illness.
This breeches the type of minimum standard that Ronaldo would demand from his teammates, particularly in the middle of the season.
Rashford out in thompsons last night in Belfast clearly not helping himself with regards to performance pic.twitter.com/1THyoqT3YL
— Ryan👹 (@RE1878) January 26, 2024
Unsurprisingly, Rashford, who has scored only four goals across all competitions this season, was nowhere to be seen as Newport County were beaten 4-2 in the FA Cup on Sunday with what was otherwise virtually a full-strength team.
“He reported ill. Let’s say, it’s an internal matter, I’ll deal with it. It’s an internal matter,” manager Erik ten Hag said, struggling to contain his anger at the situation.
BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer responded: “He can’t keep doing this, he can’t keep wasting his talent because it’s not right. He needs strong management, someone to get hold of him and tell him there’ll be huge regrets come the end of his career if he continues doing this.
“You can’t keep doing it, it needs sorting now. Thirty goals last season, four this season. When I see him play, it looks like he’s got the world on his shoulders so it needs sorting now because he can’t really deal with it.”
Rashford has so far been protected from serious scrutiny in his career due to his status as a Man Utd academy product and then the outstanding charity and political work he has done, yet for the Old Trafford club to rise back to the top, carrying such a deadweight on the field is impossible.
Ronaldo was released by the club for caring too much, but what are they going to do about Rashford, who currently appears to care too little? It promises to be the first major question for new owners INEOS, whose marginal gains strategy, masterminded by Sir Dave Brailsford, seems totally at odds with the actions of one of their star players.