Marcus Rashford was handed a rare start as a centre forward as Manchester United squeaked into the last 16 of the Champions League with a late, uninspiring 1-0 win against Young Boys.
But there is a marked difference between how Jose Mourinho treats the Englishman and his relationship with normal first-choice frontman Romelu Lukaku.
Mourinho is wrong about immaturity
In the opening stages of the game, Rashford raced through on goal but took the wrong decision to try and chip visiting goalkeeper David von Ballmoos and cleared the crossbar.
Mourinho instantly turned to the fans and essentially hung his striker out to dry; his expression said ‘what can I do when my striker is missing chances like that?’
Legendary striker Gary Lineker said he would have been livid if any of his managers did that and in truth it was the kind of petulance that Sunday league managers are generally able to avoid.
Where was that incredulous reaction when Lukaku missed an open goal against Tottenham? It is Mourinho’s job to boost Rashford’s confidence, not publicly mock him for missing chances.
Mourinho spoke at length during the international break about the immaturity of some of his players, including Rashford, but that reaction, as well as his self-absorbed celebration of Maroaune Fellaini’s winner indicates that the Portuguese has his own issues with maturity.
It was Lukaku who Mourinho felt the need to check on and babysit during the international break as well, but it is Rashford who is publicly criticised.
The Englishman is only given small bursts of gametime as a striker to try and prove himself and Mourinho has referenced on more than one occasion the public pressure to field him through the middle.
If Rashford does not impress in his isolated opportunity up front, he is swiftly shunted out wide again, but Lukaku was given weeks and weeks of gametime to try and play his way back into form.
How long will Rashford tolerate this treatment?
Rashford’s current United deal runs until June 2020 but the forward reportedly delayed contract talks at the end of last season due to concerns over his role in the squad.
With Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order out on the wing and his long-term opportunities as a centre-forward not looking promising, Rashford may perhaps be considering his options.
Of course he loves United, they are his boyhood club, but recent reports have linked the forward with the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus.
The rough deal he is getting from Mourinho is hardly likely to convince Rashford to stay, but the fan reaction if he were to leave does not really bare thinking about.