Marcus Rashford has likely had better starts to the week. 

The 26-year-old might have seemed an unlikely omission to Erik ten Hag‘s travelling squad for their FA Cup match-up against Newport County on Sunday on Friday morning, but by the time the match kicked off, social media was abuzz with their thoughts on the real reason why the academy graduate had been signed off with illness. 

Rather than being kept in bed by a cold, Rashford had jetted to Belfast and was subsequently spotted in a nightclub hours before he was due at Carrington for training on Friday. Details began slowly dripping through about a string of nights out in Northern Ireland celebrating with his former team-mate Ro-Shaun Williams – in a move which could see him stuck with a whopping £650,000 fine

Worst news was still to come on Monday evening, when the waitress – Sarah Adair – who had spent the night with the gang spilled the beans on an ‘all-day bender’ which allegedly saw the forward downing tequila shots and passing out in bed fully clothed. 

While Rashford’s Belfast antics may have marked the second time this season that the England international has been on the hook for errant partying, does the bad really outweigh the good for the high-scoring, MBE-receiving, superstar-turned-activist? 

Marcus Rashford (pictured on a visit to Larne FC) is alleged to have gone on a 12-hour bender in Belfast last week

Marcus Rashford (pictured on a visit to Larne FC) is alleged to have gone on a 12-hour bender in Belfast last week

Marcus Rashford (pictured on a visit to Larne FC) is alleged to have gone on a 12-hour bender in Belfast last week

Waitress Sarah Adair, pictured, said she was invited on a night out with the footballer and his entourage

Waitress Sarah Adair, pictured, said she was invited on a night out with the footballer and his entourage

Rashford was spotted going into a nightclub late at night, and reportedly asked if there were any clubs that would stay open beyond 3am if he paid them enough money

Rashford was spotted going into a nightclub late at night, and reportedly asked if there were any clubs that would stay open beyond 3am if he paid them enough money

Rashford was spotted going into a nightclub late at night (right), and according to waitress Sarah Adair (right) asked if there were any clubs that would stay open beyond 3am if he paid them enough money

Fans at FA Cup opponents Newport County poked fun at Rasford's omission from the squad

Fans at FA Cup opponents Newport County poked fun at Rasford's omission from the squad

Fans at FA Cup opponents Newport County poked fun at Rasford’s omission from the squad

Here, Mail Sport runs through the numerous highs and uneasy lows of Rashford’s time spent off the pitch. 

The fight against food poverty – Rashford takes on the government  

The 26-year-old’s commitment to tackling the issue of food poverty has been nothing short of revelatory. First spearheaded on a mass scale during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, Rashford’s partnership with food waste charity FareShare and usage of his platform to raise awareness for his campaign saw over £20million raised to support children who were missing out on free school meals. 

Rashford later lobbied UK government on the issue of child poverty and his campaigning helped force a Conservative u-turn on the extension of free school meals during the summer holidays. 

In September 2020, Rashford set up the Child Food Poverty Task Force, an organisation made up of a number of UK charities and businesses with a view to ensuring the aims of his campaign were met. 

Rashford’s campaigning to end child poverty saw him raise over £2.7m through a private fundraiser in collaboration with The Times, and in 2021 he topped the newspaper’s annual Giving List having raised over £20m in total in donations towards his various causes. His work also prompted the government to pledge over £400m in a winter grant scheme in late 2020 to offer support with food and bills. 

The England international was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2021

The England international was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2021

The England international was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2021

When given a honorary doctorate by the University of Manchester, Rashford became their youngest ever honoree

When given a honorary doctorate by the University of Manchester, Rashford became their youngest ever honoree

When given a honorary doctorate by the University of Manchester, Rashford became their youngest ever honoree

Partnering with food waste charity FareShare, Rashford brought untold exposure to the issue

Partnering with food waste charity FareShare, Rashford brought untold exposure to the issue

Partnering with food waste charity FareShare, Rashford brought untold exposure to the issue

Timeline of Marcus Rashford’s trip to Belfast and the fallout

Wednesday, January 24

9.55am Rashford arrives for training with Manchester United in the morning.

4.21pm In the afternoon he leaves Manchester on a private jet bound for Belfast. 

5.17pm On arriving in the Northern Irish capital he checks in at the Fitzwilliam Hotel. The footballer and his entourage then go to the Dirty Onion pub and Lavery’s bar. 

Thursday, January 25

1.06pm The footballer is pictured  visiting Larne FC, where his friend Ro-Shaun Williams has just signed.

2pm He goes to an Italian restaurant with his entourage and two women, where he meets Sarah Adair.

4.30pm The group leave the restaurant in the afternoon, before going to Villa Italia in the evening. 

Friday, January 26

12.30am Rashford and his group go to Thompson’s Garage nightclub.

2am The group leave and head back to the Fitzwilliam Hotel. Sources close to the player insist this was at 1.15am.

2.50am Rashford passes out fully clothed in his hotel room.

5am The footballer and his minders leave the hotel.

7am They board a private jet at Belfast airport.

8am Rashford touches down in Manchester and calls in sick for training.

Sunday, January 28

The striker is dropped for Manchester United’s FA Cup match away at Newport County. Manager Erik Ten Hag vows to deal with the ‘internal matter’.

Monday, January 29

8.45am Rashford arrives at training with his agent brother Dwaine Maynard, where he has talks with Ten Hag and football director John Murtough.

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Rashford continues to be vocal about the cause on social media across a raft of different platforms 

Rashford’s many decorations 

An fully-fledged activist for over four years, Rashford has been duly rewarded for his his extensive charity work and time spent raising awareness. 

In 2020, he was handed the City of Manchester Award, as well as the Special Recognition award at the Pride of Britain. He was also named Campaigner of the Year by GQ Magazine, and received a special award at BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. 

FIFA inaugurated their FIFA Foundation Award with Rashford that year, which also saw the governing body donate £75,000 to his chosen charity, and in 2021, the forward was named the Football Writers’ Association Tribute Award – given to those who have made an outstanding national contribution to the game, and made an MBE.

But his likely most-prized decoration is the honorary doctorate he received from the University of Manchester in 2021 for tackling child poverty. Rashford is the honor’s youngest-ever reciepient.  

Money Matters 

Having held the government to account previously, late 2020 saw Rashford shift focus to campaigning for a permanent rise in universal credit, and hold a meeting with then-work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey to lobby for the increase.

Rashford later spoke out against the decision to cut the £20 uplift in 2021 during the ceremony to collect his honorary doctorate. 

Rashford has also collaborated with NatWest and the National Youth Agency to create a programme that offers guidance and advice for young people to develop a positive mindset about money, and to encourage financial literacy skills from a young age.  

Boosting ‘self-belief’ with £1m Nike grant 

Last year saw the launch of his ‘Play Forward’ initiative in collaboration with his sponsor Nike, which aims to ‘instil self-belief for the next generation of young people’ through football. 

The 12-week programme is based on specially-designed curriculum will look to roll out across the country after launching in Greater Manchester, and is centred around themes including communityk, confident, aspirations and visualisations, and skills and tactics.  

The Marcus Rashford Book Club 

Rashford credits reading his first book at the age of 17 with ‘changing the direction of his life’, and his final campaign is a testament to his desire to see children granted access to reading living in the most disadvantaged areas. The Marcus Rashford Book Club was set up by the player and Macmillan Children’s Books in 2020, and is promoted by the National Literacy Trust. 

As well as promoting books for young readers, the club has delivered over 100,000 free books across the country.

The 25-year-old has also written a series of books for younger readers based around building up confidence and finding your voice, and a string of fictional children’s books under the ‘Breakfast Club Adventures’ series. 

The 26-year-old has published both a run of non-fiction books aimed at empowering children and a fictional series

The 26-year-old has published both a run of non-fiction books aimed at empowering children and a fictional series

The 26-year-old has published both a run of non-fiction books aimed at empowering children and a fictional series

LOWS 

A predilection for partying

As well as this latest brouhaha, Rashford has already been caught out once before this season, with his decision to go ahead with a pre-planned 26th birthday party in October. The problem? It came shortly after a dismal 3-0 defeat in the Manchester derby. 

A trip to Manchester nightclub Chinawhite may have seemed incongruous when booked in advance, but hours after the Old Trafford defeat it was deemed ‘unacceptable’ by Ten Hag

But the manager was content with his apology and announced that the ‘internal matter’ had been resolved that week. Rashford was duly benched in United’s Carabao Cup tie with Newcastle – and later brought on.

Due to injury, Rashford was not able to slot back into the side’s starting XI in their next Premier League tie against Fulham on November 4, but was back in the firmanent to pick up a red card against Copenhagen in the following week’s Champions League action. 

A smash-up near Carrington 

While lucky to escape without injury – or injury to the other driver – Rashford will have no doubt been stung by the repairs needed to his £700,000 Rolls Royce after he crashed his car after Man United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley at the start of the season. 

The player collided with the car driven by a 74-year-old grandmother as he was leaving his club’s Carrington training ground on a rainy September night, and immediately checked she was okay and quickly exchanged insurance details with her. 

Both drivers were merely shaken after the prang, which saw Rashford take out both the other driver and a lamp-post. 

Rashford's motor (pictured) and the elderly woman's car were both damaged in the smash, which also saw the footballer mow down a traffic light camera post

Rashford's motor (pictured) and the elderly woman's car were both damaged in the smash, which also saw the footballer mow down a traffic light camera post

Rashford’s motor (pictured) and the elderly woman’s car were both damaged in the smash, which also saw the footballer mow down a traffic light camera post

Posing with Wiley – and his subsequent climb-down 

Rashford and his then-team-mate Jesse Lingard found themselves in hot water in January 2022 when they were pictured in Dubai partying alongside controversial rapper Wiley. 

The grime artist had previously been banned from Twitter (now X) in July 2020 for a series of widely condemned anti-Semitic posts which called Jewish people ‘cowards and snakes’. 

Wiley had also made a number of comments deemed to be anti-Semitic in a later interview with The Voice which claimed that his Jewish associates in the entertainment industry ‘still see us as slaves’, and he was later dropped by his management. 

Both Rashford and Lingard were quick to distance themselves from the rapper, with the former sharing a detailed apology to his social media accounts. 

The player was keen to apologise swiftly on social media as the image circulated two years ago

The player was keen to apologise swiftly on social media as the image circulated two years ago

The player was keen to apologise swiftly on social media as the image circulated two years ago

‘This picture has been brought to my attention which I understand now, given context, could easily be misconstrued,’ Rashford wrote. ‘I would like to reinforce that I do not and will not condone discriminative language or behaviour of any kind aimed at the Jewish community or any other community.

‘I truly believe that tackling antisemitism in and outside of the game requires a greater level of attention and should very much form part of the game’s anti-racism stance.’

An argument for an alarm clock

Perhaps this stern reprimand from Ten Hag says more about the manager, and his keeness for discipline, than Rashford who – if his excuse is to be believed, made a straightforward mistake. 

Preparing for last season’s away clash against Wolves, Rashford would have been an unlikely omission from the Dutch manager’s squad. But Ten Hag opted to leave his lynchpin player on the bench in a shock decision resulting from an ‘internal disciplinary issue’ – which the player later revealed was due to his oversleeping and arriving late to a team meeting. 

Rashford started on the bench against Wolves after oversleeping but later came on to score the winner at Molineux

Rashford started on the bench against Wolves after oversleeping but later came on to score the winner at Molineux

Rashford started on the bench against Wolves after oversleeping but later came on to score the winner at Molineux

Languishing on the bench, Rashford was a reserve that most clubs would have given their eye-teeth to have called upon, and when Ten Hag duly did in the second-half, the forward stepped up to net the winner. 

Ten Hag dubbed Rashford’s response ‘the right reaction’ after the final whistle. One wonders what might be needed at Old Trafford after the weekend’s incident.  

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