MARCUS RASHFORD committed one cardinal sin last week.
It wasn’t that he went out on a 12-hour tequila bender in Belfast — not that this was advisable.
It was that he didn’t turn up for work the next morning.
If, as a player, you go out on a school night, rule No 1 states that you report for training the next morning — even if you’re throwing up in the bushes.
I know some are wondering about the double standards shown by Erik ten Hag towards Rashford and Jadon Sancho.
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When they found out that Rashford was going straight back into the team to face Wolves on Thursday, some will have raised their eyebrows.
Ten Hag will have told him in no uncertain terms that he owed him one and not to let him down.
The fact he scored after just five minutes and played well in the 4-3 win at Molineux didn’t actually surprise me.
Rashford seems to play better when he feels slighted — but I’d like to see more consistency from him.
Last season, when he scored 30 goals, was an outlier. Most of his career has been patchy.
If Rashford scores against West Ham tomorrow and United win, then his drinking session will be put to the back of most people’s minds.
Yet there will be team-mates wondering, ‘When is it going to stop? When is he going to stop missing games for disciplinary reasons?’
It is not the fact he’s gone out for a drink in itself, though.
Even now, when top-flight footballers don’t drink as much as they used to, it’s not completely rare for a player to turn up for training the worse for wear.
Players are urine-tested every day as standard to check on hydration levels.
And they can tell if you’ve even had a glass or two of wine with your dinner the night before. Your pee is a much darker colour.
Drinking in midweek is not completely banned but players will certainly hear about it if they are knocking back too much, too regularly.
The real ‘drinking culture’ at the top level of English football, of players going out on the lash together and drinking shed-loads of lager, is long gone — ever since Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996.
I’d say about 30 or 40 per cent of Premier League players are teetotal — certainly during the season at least.
A lot of younger, especially single lads, will have nights out quite often without drinking a drop. There’s been a cultural shift with that.
They still want that escapism, a bit of ‘normal’ life — to see their mates and maybe to meet women.
More players smoke than you might think and it’s well publicised that a lot take Snus — a smokeless tobacco product placed in the mouth.
Some do ‘balloons’ — nitrous oxide.
Married players might still have a bottle of wine with the missus over dinner two or three times a week, depending on their schedule.
On a night out, players are more likely to drink cocktails or shorts, rather than beers, as they are easier on the waistline.
Whether you’re drinking or not, the key is to pick your moments to have a night out.
Going out to celebrate your birthday straight after a 3-0 home defeat in a Manchester derby, as Rashford did back in October, is not the right moment.
And when you’ve got new owners coming into the club, as United have after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s partial £1.03billion takeover, that’s definitely a time to keep your nose clean.
It’s possible that Rashford was going out for drinks quite frequently last season when he was at the top of his game.
But nobody is too bothered about that sort of thing, inside or outside the club, when things are going well.
But Rashford has had at least three major scrapes with Ten Hag in the last year or so and the interesting thing for me is how differently the manager has treated him and Sancho.
No two cases are the same and Sancho did challenge the manager’s authority after Ten Hag criticised his poor performances in training.
But he was dealt with severely by being frozen out of the first-team squad before he was loaned to his former club Borussia Dortmund early last month.
With Rashford, Dutchman Ten Hag is being far more lenient.
And that’s chiefly because you can’t keep binning off major assets.
They struggled at Wolves and looked weaker once Ten Hag started making subs.
I believe the manager is on thin ice and it would not surprise me if United returned to Jose Mourinho.
The Special One reckons he has unfinished business at Old Trafford and would fancy a second go at the job.
Some say Mourinho is outdated.
But during his two full seasons at the club, they finished runners-up in the Premier League, won the Europa League and the League Cup.
United would love that sort of ‘failure’ now.