While for supporters a summer of international football with crowds back in the stadiums sounds like heaven, for footballers themselves it may be yet another circle of hell.
‘Football’s coming home’ will likely soundtrack this summer’s rearranged Euro 2020, but the fact is that since the three-month hiatus at the start of the pandemic last year, football has hardly left at all.
It has been an absolutely brutal 12 months since the Premier League finally restarted last year, with United especially feeling the full brunt of a truncated campaign and lack of pre-season.
The 2019/20 season only concluded for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side when they were knocked out of the Europa League by yet another Spanish side in Sevilla on August 16.
The Premier League were gracious enough to grant United an extra week to prepare before they got the next season underway, but just five weeks later their noses were back to the grindstone.
Five weeks. A mere 35 days.
That’s not nearly enough time for players to relax, refresh, rest and recuperate, to shake off the war wounds before firing headlong into the next battle.
The fact that United even managed to make it all the way to a European final is impressive in itself, because their players have been subjected to a hectic schedule with hardly enough space to breathe, let alone train and strategise.
There will be no let-up this summer, either, with a European Championship to play. United could have up to 13 players representing their countries at the tournament which will be held across multiple countries, with plenty of travel time.
They have had a couple of days’ rest at best before meeting up with their nations for training and friendly matches ahead of the tournament, and could still be in action all the way until July 11 should their side make the final.
Thankfully the next campaign doesn’t begin again until September 12, so there will be a bit more time for recovery afterwards, but with the season only scheduled to end a week later than usual, on May 23, a season of mid-week games once again looms on the horizon.
Such an unforgiving workload was bound to take its toll and it already has.
Mason Greenwood pulled out of the England squad ahead of Gareth Southgate announcing his final 26-man squad so the young forward could spend the summer fully recovering from an underlying injury he has struggled with since March.
Should Marcus Rashford pull out of the England squad? Let us know in the comments below!
If Greenwood has been playing with an injury for the last three months then just how good will he be when fully fit?
The teenager rediscovered the form that so electrified supporters upon his introduction into the team towards the end of the season, with over half of his 12 goals this season coming from April onwards.
You would have been hard-pressed to tell he was playing with a problem, yet if he is feeling the strain and has sacrificed the chance to play in his first major international tournament in order to be in fighting shape for United next season then that has to be commended.
Marcus Rashford, on the other hand, has clearly been playing on through the pain for some months now and perhaps should follow his teammate on holiday.
The striker has valiantly been playing on despite a plethora of ailments holding him back and has played a frankly ridiculous amount of football. He has been involved in 73 of United’s last 75 matchday squads. He has played more than 50 times in three of the last four seasons. Ryan Giggs did that just three times in his 24 years at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney once in 13.
In a feat of remarkable fortitude, Rashford still managed to score 21 goals and provide 15 assists this season despite being out of form for a large portion of the campaign but he desperately needs a rest.
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If Rashford isn’t given a serious amount of time to fully recover from all his debilitating injuries then United risk causing permanent damage. Early burnout has been seen so many times before and it’s a travesty when it happens to such talented players who then never go on to reach the levels everyone knows they can.
In an ideal world, the 23-year-old would take this summer off but that feels highly unlikely. His passion for England is too great and he, despite his form, would be a massive loss for the Three Lions if he was to pull out. Yet, it may be the best thing for his career.
It feels as though Rashford is at a crossroads and he has one foot on the path that will see his bad form become more than temporary.