Marcus Rashford says he was always aware that he would be criticised by some for his campaign to end child food poverty.
Rashford has been proclaimed as a national hero over the last 12 months for his work during the coronavirus pandemic in raising awareness of children going hungry and forcing the government to u-turn on their decision not to extend free school meals in the holidays.
Yet he said that taking some personal criticism would have minimal impact on him in comparison to the sort of impact his campaign will have on people’s lives.
“I already understood that somebody in my shoes is already a target anyway,” he explained.
“Whether I’m trying to do good or bad things, there’s going to be people watching me and people that have opinions on me before they’ve ever spoken to me or met me in person.
“It’s something I’ve just come to terms with anyway, it’s part of my life, being a footballer for one of the biggest clubs in the world is going to bring that attention, whether it’s good or bad things. I knew what I was stepping into.
“T he effect it’s going to have on me, the campaign itself is much bigger than that, so I’m willing to take that little bit of agg from wherever it comes from.
“We’ve taken a lot of steps in the right direction and if I hadn’t started the campaign or raised awareness of this topic then maybe we’d still be in the same position we were in a year ago. I’m pleased we’ve made some progress but, at the same time, still hungry and wanting to do more.”
Reflecting on the criticism he has faced from some, including some politicians, Rashford said his critics had exposed how little they know about food poverty, and about him personally.
He said: “For me, it’s a lack of knowledge and probably understanding on the topic. A lack of knowledge and personal understanding of me as well.
“Before this campaign, I’ve not really been one to speak out about my upbringing and tell people what life was like as I just got on with my job and played football. Now the time has come for me to speak out about things like that, I think it’s a big lack of knowledge and understanding of me as an individual and of the world as well.
“My upbringing was tough but a lot of families are going through much worse situations now and I didn’t know that before the pandemic and before I started my campaign.
“I was learning that along the way and I was using social media to connect with the families and learn more about what they were going through.”
Rashford is one of a number of United players to have faced racist abuse on social media in recent weeks, but the striker was keen to stress the positive impact platforms have been able to have on his campaign.
The 23-year-old argued that, if more focus was put on the positive aspect of social media, the negative side would not be so prevalent.
He said: “It’s one positive of social media, in my opinion and it’s a big positive to be able to make change and do it for the right reasons.
“Instagram and Twitter have given me the opportunity to not only voice my opinion on things and raise awareness but also to understand more and connect more with families and gain a greater understanding in a shorter time.
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“Social media enables you to do that and you’re in a position where things have sped up so much because of the pandemic, it keeps you up to date when you use it in the right way.
“That’s a big message and a big point, as there’s a lot of negative stuff on social media that people like to highlight all the time but when there’s something positive on social media, it should be highlighted more and more people use things for that.”