Man Utd’s Marcus Rashford has been out partying - and why should anyone give a damn?

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Marcus Rashford has - shock horror! - been spotted going for a party after the Manchester United game on Sunday. Why can’t players just have a good time?

Get the Notes app apology ready, Marcus Rashford – you’ve just committed the ultimate football sin, and heads must roll. At least, they must in your case. Did you really think that you could just run around having fun after embarrassing the Conservative government a few years back? Did you think there would be no consequences for being young, gifted and Black? How very naïve.

So, what was his sin this time? Why has the right-wing press got their knives out once more? Did he dare to have lots of money and occasionally spend it on a nice house or car? Nope, this was far worse – he went out for a birthday party after his football team lost a match.

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The Mail, The Telegraph and The Times all carried articles shaming him for daring to head down to a Manchester nightclub to celebrate his 26th birthday with some friends on Sunday, “just hours” after Manchester United took a 3-0 thumping in the derby game. Probably some of the red-top tabloids did too, but there’s only so far down this particular rabbit hole it was worth going in the name of research. These days, even once-respectable newspapers print rage-bait nonsense such as this, hoping to rile people up against one of England’s most talented and intrinsically likeable players.

Let’s start with the obvious bit – nobody with a single ounce of sanity should care if a footballer goes out for a drink after their team loses a game. Players typically get one night a week when they can let their hair down, if that, and have as much right to blow off a bit of steam as the rest of us. Yes, Premier League players are deeply privileged and drowning in cash – but they’re still entitled to actually have a youth.

Plenty of us like to drown a bad day with a beer. A few Friday drinks are a pleasant way to take a week in which missed our KPIs, or accidentally cc’d the boss into that ill-advised e-mail, and put it firmly behind us. Football players are not impervious to the need to unwind, and no amount of money makes a cold ale any less refreshing, even if in the case of Premier League players the embrocation of choice is probably a little pricier than our own drinks down the local.

We would all be a little baffled if we woke up with a hangover to discover that the national press had printed a story suggesting our boss would be unhappy with us for getting a little tipsy on our own time – but that’s precisely what The Mail did. We won’t be linking to that story in this piece, for obvious reasons, but you can hopefully take us at our word when we tell you that they claim that Rashford “risked the wrath” of Erik ten Hag by having a night out – although having run with that claim as the headline, this particularly odious insult to journalism then goes on to say that “it remains to be seen if Ten Hag takes a dimmer view of the situation and consider disciplinary action.” In other words, he probably doesn’t, presumably won’t, and there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for suggesting any of the above.

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The ”story”, such as it is, is embarrassing enough, but of course it somehow seems to be Marcus Rashford who’s the target of these pieces more often than not. He isn’t the first, granted, and won’t be the last, but it’s remarkable how much more spittle seems to fly in his direction from those parts of the press which care less about the ethical underpinning of their work.

Is it because he made fools of the Conservatives a few years back when he stepped up to feed children going hungry during the coronavirus pandemic? That utterly unselfish act certainly seemed to turn the portion of the press that vociferously supports the Tories against him. Or is it because he’s Black? It’s amazing how much more opprobrium seems to be directed at Black players when they become famous – look at Gabby Agbonlahor, who was targeted by stories breathlessly reporting that he’d taken laughing gas (not smart, sure, but perfectly legal at the time) or the endless melodramas reported about Mario Balotelli.

There’s certainly a different tone in ‘night out’ stories about Black players compared to similar pieces written about players like Jack Grealish, and old-school players like Paul Gascoigne and George Best have had their boozing added to the hagiographies. The journalist who wrote the story in The Mail is, inevitably, white.

But whether it’s because he fed Britain’s children when the Prime Minister judged it a waste of money, or whether it’s informed by the colour of his skin, some people also just get this rubbish pinned against their name because they’re successful. Fame builds a lightning rod on the back of young athletes who just want to have some parts of a normal life alongside their heavily-televised day jobs. Their wealth and achievements seems to send some people green with envy, and create a thin justification for all the brickbats. Tyrell Malacia, who was also apparently involved in the night out, gets a footnote in the story - but then, most people haven’t heard of him yet, and he didn’t make an idiot of Boris Johnson. Not that Johnson ever needed anyone else to do that for him.

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Happily, most people seem to treat these non-stories with the disdain they deserve, although these hacks still revel in the ‘hate clicks’ they get from the perfectly decent people who get wound up by their publication (including from us, we suppose). There are a few inevitable hateful comments below the line by people with froth flecking around their mouth as they type, but generally people just roll their eyes at this stuff.

Anyway, there was one good thing that came out of this latest pathetic attempt to target a gifted young Black man for the crime of having a good time – a picture of Rashford’s ‘disguise’, which consisted of a rather natty fedora and some hefty aviator sunglasses. A get-up which only made us love him more.

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