LONDON • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho blasted his critics with a barrage of statistics to defend the amount of playing time he has given to England striker Marcus Rashford since he was appointed in the summer of 2016.
The United player scored two goals in two games for England during the international break, but it was suggested by pundits that he may have to leave Old Trafford to further his development.
The 20-year-old is unavailable for today's Premier League game at Watford because he starts a three-game suspension after he was sent off during the 2-0 win over Burnley.
Mourinho joked about this at his pre-match conference yesterday.
"Speaking about Marcus, I think I can expect that Sunday, I'm going to be highly criticised for not playing him," he said.
"Because some of the (media) boys are really obsessed with me. I can expect that Sunday, some of them, they will wake up in the morning and as always, the first thing they think is Jose Mourinho.
"But it is not my fault, he's suspended, so probably you should remind them that he is suspended and cannot play."
PUNDITS HAVE NO CLUE
Speaking about Marcus, I think I can expect that Sunday, I'm going to be highly criticised for not playing him... But it is not my fault, he's suspended.
JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, aiming a dig at his critics in the media for suggesting that England forward Marcus Rashford is being underutilised at Old Trafford.
The 55-year-old Portuguese then read from the sheet he prepared.
"On the season 16-17, Marcus Rashford played 32 Premier League matches, 11 Europa League matches, including the final, three FA Cup matches, six League Cup matches, including the final, and the Community Shield.
"He had 53 appearances but if you want to take to the minutes of play, he played 3,068 and if you want to divide that by 90 minutes of the matches, he played 34.2 matches of 90 minutes.
"In 17-18, he played 35 Premier League matches, eight in Champions League, five in FA Cup including the final, three League Cup matches and the European Super Cup final.
"He played a total of 52 matches with 2,676 minutes, if you divide that by 90, it gives 29.7 matches, so with me, in two seasons, he had 105 appearances, 5,744 minutes, 63.7 matches of 90 minutes, including five finals, so the people that are speaking about these (lack of) minutes, I think they are a bit confused."
Mourinho knows United have to be at their best against high-flying Watford to avoid another slip-up, if they are to stay on the coat-tails of the Premier League pacesetters.
A loss at Watford - who have surprisingly won all four of their games - would leave United nine points off the lead after already recording two defeats in four games.
To add insult to injury, Mourinho has had strained relationships with some of his players at the club, most notably with star midfielder Paul Pogba, but striker Romelu Lukaku has defended his boss' confrontational style of management.
"People need to appreciate that, at least there are people who are real in this world like him. Because most managers in the league, when they are not happy, they try to find a way to seem happy," the Belgian told the BBC.
"You should respect that he wants to keep his personality and not shy away from confrontation. He wants us to improve."
Watford have brushed aside Brighton, Burnley and Crystal Palace with relative ease. But their real statement of intent came in their come-from-behind win against Tottenham that enabled them to keep pace with joint-leaders Liverpool and Chelsea.
Watford manager Javi Gracia, though, warned his side of underestimating United.
"I think that as soon as we begin to think the next game is going to be easier for some reason, we are dead... We will pay heavily for any sense of overconfidence against a team like United," said the Spaniard.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
WATFORD V MAN UNITED
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