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Erik ten Hag has a “lot of sympathy” for Marcus Rashford and backed the misfiring forward to become a freescoring star for Manchester United once again.

The 26-year-old produced a career-high 30 goals last season and was rewarded with a big-money new deal until 2028 over the summer, but his form has dropped off markedly since then.

Rashford has managed just eight goals in 40 appearances for his boyhood club, with his output criticised by onlookers and some fans booing him in last Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Coventry.

The England international told the Players’ Tribune in February that “if you back me, good” and “if you doubt me, even better”, but he feels recent criticism has overstepped the mark.

Responding to a post on X that called the treatment of Rashford “absolutely disgusting”, “cruel” and “abuse”, he said: “I appreciate your support! It is abuse and has been for months. Enough is enough.”

That post at 12.36am on Friday was put to his manager in the press conference later that day.

“I have a lot of sympathy for Rashy, of course,” United boss Ten Hag said.

“So last year he had a brilliant season. I think the best season in his career, he scored 30 goals, so there you see where he’s capable of.

Marcus Rashford has underwhelmed this season
Marcus Rashford has underwhelmed this season (Nigel French/PA)

“This season he didn’t give the performances and then people are very critical, and I think we have to back him.

“Everyone should back him and push him to get back to the levels he was last year.”

Ten Hag reiterated his belief in Rashford and hopes he can get back to the “really brilliant” level that saw him produce the best goal return of his career in 2022-23.

But put to the United boss that fans can accept not scoring 30 goals every season but not a perceived lack of effort, he said: “First of all, I think Marcus Rashford is capable to score every season 25, 35 goals.

“He has the assets to do that. I am 100 per cent confident of this.

“The other thing, yeah, when he is not doing the right stuff out of possession I will confront him with this. I will tell him and, yeah, I will give arguments and also we use data.”

Ten Hag said it was an “internal matter” when asked if he had such conversations this term with Rashford, whose dip has naturally led to talk about what sparked the change.

“That is an interesting question,” the Dutchman said of the England forward, who is set to miss Saturday’s match against Burnley through injury.

“He knows, I know, it has to do with himself but also to do of course with the team.

“The first season half we had problems, and I already said our attacking game has improved a lot after the winter.

“But before winter, our attacking game wasn’t good enough.

“I think it’s always the two factors I just mentioned – it’s the team and it’s himself. That is of course related with each other.”