Jose Mourinho challenges Marcus Rashford after 'very difficult' second season at Manchester United

Rashford has only managed seven goals in 36 appearances this season

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Jose Mourinho has admitted Marcus Rashford has experienced a “very difficult” second season for Manchester United but has challenged him to recapture his best form next season.

Rashford burst onto the scene under Louis van Gaal after United suffered a striker injury crisis and went on to score eight goals in his first 18 games for the club, as well as netting on his England debut and featuring at Euro 2016.

However, the 19-year-old has struggled during his second season in the senior team and has only managed seven goals in 36 appearances for United this term and has found himself out wide or used as an impact sub by Mourinho.

Rashford is set to miss United’s FA Cup quarter final with Chelsea on Monday night through illness and Mourinho has revealed he always knew the striker wouldn’t hit the heights of his debut season again so soon.

"I knew that it would be a very difficult season for him after the season of the surprise,” the United manager said.

"The season without pressure, the season where nobody demands, that nobody knows him, he comes in and makes an impact, he feels free. He is just a kid that is enjoying his football.

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"The second season was always going to be a difficult one.

"I think the third season is going to be the good one again. The third season is one with more maturity, he can build on his experiences so I am sure the third season will be better than the second.

"The second season is the difficult one. It's the pressure, it's the people that knows him, it's the expectation.

"Is he a national team player? Is he in the line-up for the club? Should he go to the Euro 21 [European Under-21 Championship] or no? Having all these things around him doesn't give him an easy season, but he is a good kid, a good humble boy, he tries to learn with every experience.

"We had a nice conversation where he told that even in the dressing room at half-time he learns, so he is a good kid with a good mentality and now we have three matches without Zlatan (Ibrahimovic)."