Marcus Rashford has tended to be the man Manchester United have turned to in every situation this season. Scoring the goals after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and powering their revival under Erik ten Hag, however, may have appeared easier tasks than providing an explanation for the capitulation. Rashford was summoned to discuss United’s heaviest defeat for 91 years, the 7-0 hammering by Liverpool. He has shown an eloquence in front of goal this season. Now for the cameras and the microphones.

He did not attempt a case for the defence, other than to insist it was no surrender, that United cared and tried even amid a shambles. Rashford is a Ten Hag disciple – perhaps the most prominent, with the exception of his Ajax alumni – and he borrowed from his manager’s language and thinking. The problem, he felt, was that United forgot Ten Hag’s principles, his rules, his rationale. He sees the meeting with Real Betis on Thursday as the chance for a reset after a six-goal second half at Anfield saw them forget their improvements over the last six months.

“We didn’t give up, that’s nonsense,” said Rashford. “We were unorganised, communication was bad, that’s why we conceded the goals. But I believe everyone was trying to get back into the game that much. We came away from the principles too much, the forwards were trying to press as a unit but we weren’t connected with the midfield.”

As Ten Hag put it at Anfield, United stopped being a team and became 11 individuals. Rashford concurred. It was not a lack of effort, he suggested, but an inability to coordinate and combine. “We were trying to get a grip of the game at 2-0 and 3-0, we were talking but we weren’t in agreement with what to do,” he said. “It’s happened, we can learn from it and move on. I’m happy and grateful we have another game quickly.”

If nothing else, United’s season has meant there is always another game. Betis represents the 43rd in a season that could stretch to 65. Rashford has played in 40 so far. They have included harrowing hammerings – 4-0 at Brentford, 6-3 at Manchester City, 7-0 at Liverpool – but also proof United can bounce back from them. Now they must again. “It’s disappointing but we can’t dwell on it and look back, we have to be thankful games are coming thick and fast,” he said.

Liverpool, of course, is not just any other match for United. “When you lose a game against any of your biggest rivals it cuts deep, it’s not nice,” Rashford rationalised. If United’s recent record of responding – reeling off four straight wins after Brentford, going nine unbeaten after City, losing to Aston Villa and then winning nine in a row – bodes well, there remains the question of how the 7-0 happened and whether it was a one-off.

Ten Hag argued United were the better side before half-time and Rashford agreed. “I missed a chance at 0-0,” he rued. “We had two or three other opportunities. We should have gone in [at half-time] in the lead, but we were down 1-0. We weren’t in a bad position. It’s Liverpool, they can take the game away from you and that’s what happened. It’s about resetting now. We press the reset button.”

They do so with the same vice-captain. Bruno Fernandes’ petulance at Anfield, along with a push on assistant referee Adam Nunn, led for calls for him to be stripped of his role as Harry Maguire’s deputy. Ten Hag responded by backing the Portuguese. “He’s coaching players, he’s an inspirator, but no one is perfect,” he said.

Marcus Rashford has hit back at suggestions Manchester United gave up during Sunday’s 7-0 thrashing at Liverpool

(PA Wire)

Rashford offered a similar endorsement. They can gel well on the pitch Fernandes’ willingness to risk losing possession to try and create goals suits the Mancunian; Fernandes has five assists for Rashford in the Premier League this season, making them the second most productive combination after Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland.

“I love playing with Bruno, for a forward like me he’s a perfect player to play with,” said Rashford. “He’s been a good leader for us even when he’s not been captain, which is always a good sign. He’s helped other players become better leaders and the reality is we can’t be an organised with just one leader being captain. He’s done a lot in terms of bringing his leadership skills in, that was from the moment he arrived. Like the manager said, nobody is perfect, sometimes you want to win so bad you end up doing things a little out of character.”

Losing 7-0 seemed out of character for a team who appeared on the up, who had shown a capacity to go on unbeaten runs and respond to setbacks. Instead, they fell apart in almost surreal style. “We make a mess on Sunday and we have to deal with it,” said Ten Hag bluntly. And that starts with Betis as United resume their quest for a unique cup treble: one that would be interrupted by a 7-0 thrashing.



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