Marcus Rashford declares it’s title or bust for Man Utd ahead of Liverpool clash

Marcus Rashford has not always been a saint.

But then again, the rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool is bitter enough to bring out the devil in the most caring of souls.

And that is why Rashford knows Sunday’s showdown at Anfield is a time for cool heads – if that is possible.

Because Rashford almost learnt the heard way how emotions can get the better of players in these fixtures.

He recalls: “I think it was my first or second game at Anfield and just one minute into the game, I was just emotionally into the game, and I made a tackle and lucky it was on James Milner, and he is not one to roll around on the floor! He just bounced back up.

“It was just a yellow card, on another day it could have been a red card.

“They are the moments you have to learn from and I had the right players around me – I think it was Antonio Valencia then – who made me just get on with the game and play football.”

Such is the intensity of the United-Liverpool enmity, Rashford’s recollection might be just a little scrambled.

In his second game at Anfield – a goalless draw in October, 2016 – Rashford did, indeed, go in late on Milner but, much to the annoyance of the Kop, referee Anthony Taylor did not book him.

In March, 2018, at Old Trafford, Rashford WAS booked for a nasty foul on Milner but that was after he had scored the first of a double that gave United a 2-1 win.

“There are no better games to score in than against Liverpool and Manchester City,” smiles Rashford. “As a kid from Manchester, nothing is sweeter.

“This is a game I am definitely looking forward to and, hopefully, we can go there and win.”

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If United were to end Liverpool’s remarkable Premier League run at Anfield – Jurgen Klopp’s team have not been beaten at home in the competition since April, 2017 – it would certainly put down a title marker.

And now they sit on top of the table, Rashford admits that only winning the Premier League will be good enough for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side this season.

He declares: “If we finish second or third, it is not going to be a good season for us – it is not what we set out to try to do at the beginning of the year.”

Rashford was talking after receiving the Football Writers’ Association annual tribute for outstanding service to the game.

It was Rashford’s last accolade as he continues his campaign to feed the nation’s underprivileged children

But alongside that mission, Rashford is also leading a United attack that he believes can get better and better.

He explains: “We can score goals at any time but we can do much better.

“I believe it is still the start of something which can go on to be an unbelievable connection.

“We can play in so many different ways with different personnel.

“We can just be so strong and for us, that is what is key because if we want to win trophies and win the leagues, then you need versatility.

“I believe that we have one of the most versatile squads in the Premier League, especially going forwards.”

Rashford will be a key part of Gareth Southgate’s Euro plans and faces a daunting schedule between now and the summer.

But the prospect of so many matches does not faze the 23-year-old.

He says: “For me, it is a mentality thing. In a 'normal' season, you would play 60 games if you reached finals, maybe 55 if you don’t.

“We have the same amount of games, just in a lightly shorter amount of time.

“I just try to put myself in the best mental position because, physically, I know I am fresh and can play the games.”

And right now, few are playing them better on AND off the pitch than Marcus Rashford.

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