Jose Mourinho praised Marcus Rashford following his successful free school meals campaign, describing the Manchester United forward he knows well as a “man with principles”.
Rashford’s lobbying of the United Kingdom government led to a U-turn as the food voucher scheme for vulnerable school children was extended beyond term time, with the subject close to the player’s heart due to his own childhood experiences.
The 22-year-old, who has spoken about his own reliance on free school meals and food banks when growing up, had already helped charity FareShare reach a goal of supplying three million meals to the vulnerable by the end of June.
Mourinho worked with Rashford during his time in charge of United and, as he prepares to come up against his former employers on Friday, has championed the England international for his off-field work.
“He did amazingly well, I congratulate him on that,” the Spurs boss told the media ahead of the Premier League fixture.
“It’s a bit strange for me that one football player can make it happen and, if it happens, it’s because the government realises it is the right thing to do. The government shouldn’t wait for one player to come out publicly and put some pressure on them for that to happen.
“The 18-year-old kid I met a few years ago to be now a man, and a man with principles. “To fight for kids very similar too him when he was a young kid is something very nice from Marcus.”
Rashford’s focus on Friday will be dealing his old boss a serious blow as Spurs attempt to claw back the gap to United in the table.
Mourinho’s side, boosted by the return of Harry Kane from injury – have nine games remaining in a Premier League season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, though they face a battle to finish in the top four again.
United sit in fifth place ahead of the pivotal clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. Spurs, meanwhile, are eighth, leaving them in danger of missing out on qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
“The battle for the top four would be amazing if we all started with the same number of points but unfortunately that’s not the case,” Mourinho said.
“It’s a strange battle to fight but it’s a street challenge, motivation. I will try not to look to that difference, I honestly cannot tell you the difference in points, we have to look at this incredible challenge in the way we have to do it.
“Every game we have to try and win. At the end of the nine matches, we will see what we did and our opponents did.
“Normally in this fight, we don’t depend as much as we do on our exact opponents. But let’s focus on one match at a time and tomorrow is Manchester United and the points are there to fight for.”