Marcus Rashford defended his Manchester United team-mates from accusations of downing tools in Sunday’s annihilation by Liverpool, labelling such suggestions “nonsense”.
United were beaten 7-0 during an astonishing Premier League game at Anfield, suffering the joint-heaviest defeat in their entire history.
It was the first time they had lost by seven goals since 1931, while it was Liverpool’s biggest win over their bitter rivals, surpassing their 7-1 victory in October 1895.
The loss was a brutal reality check a week on from United winning the EFL Cup, but it was not just the scoreline that saw them attract stinging criticism.
Several United players had their commitment called into question by pundits due to their body language or attitude during a second half in which the visitors conceded six goals.
But Rashford snapped at the idea United threw in the towel.
“We didn’t give up, that’s nonsense,” he told reporters ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with Real Betis.
“We were disorganised, yes. Communication was bad, yes, that’s why we conceded the goals, but it comes down to the fact that I believe everyone was trying to get back into the game that much, we came away from the team’s principles in and out of possession.
“I mentioned after the game, I felt the forwards were trying to press just as the forward unit, we weren’t connected to the midfield, and the same with the midfield and defence.
“We were trying to get a grip of the game when it was 2-0, 3-0, we were talking but I don’t think we were in agreement about what to do.
“Listen, it’s happened, and the only thing we can do is learn from it and move on. So, I’m happy and grateful we have another game so quickly because we have an opportunity to take a step forward and put it behind us.”
It was then put to Rashford if the scoreline made a defeat to Liverpool even more harrowing, though the England forward suggested they would have felt just as bad had they only been beaten 1-0.
“Just losing against Liverpool is enough, it doesn’t matter the score when you lose again them,” he continued. “When you lose against them or any of the biggest rivals, it cuts deep and it’s not nice, it’s never a nice feeling.
“But I always remember how many games we have won against them, and they have the same feeling. It’s football, it’s why everyone loves the game so much.
“It’s obviously disappointing, but we can’t dwell and look back, we just need to be grateful the games are coming thick and fast – because of the principles we’ve had since start of the season, we’re in a position where we’re still fighting on all fronts and we still have a lot of games to play.
“When you have a game like that against Liverpool, you want to play as soon as possible because we want to put it right and hopefully tomorrow we can do that.”
United manager Erik ten Hag was not kidding himself about the gravity of such a defeat, with the Dutchman seeming to appreciate just how damning the loss was.
Though he also insisted difficult situations like this can yield positive lessons.
“I think the players reflected well,” he said, “but we also know when you go through a season setbacks will always be there.
“This was a huge setback, clear, but when you have a run of I think 23 games with one loss, and that was the second [loss].
“There were a lot of lessons in it that can help us for the future, and that’s what [we have to do], take the positive out of it.
“How negative it is, that is that we were really below average, especially mentally. We have to take the lessons.
“We want to be a big team, we want to win trophies, so you have to act differently. After Sunday we got a big lesson, but we take that, move on, that’s the way we treated it and now all the focus has to be on the next game.”
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