Jose Mourinho admits he would rather Marcus Rashford play for England Under-21s rather than sit on the bench for the senior side.
Eighteen-year-old striker Rashford scored eight goals for United last season having only made his first-team debut in February and was rewarded with a surprise spot in Roy Hodgson’s England squad.
After netting on his international debut in a friendly against Australia, he was then limited to two late substitute appearances at Euro 2016, where England crashed out to Iceland in the last 16.
Hodgson has been replaced by Sam Allardyce and Rashford was named in Gareth Southgate’s England Under-21 squad this week.
Mourinho said on Friday: “I prefer it this way, because to be selected (for the seniors) and be on the bench behind (Harry) Kane and (Jamie) Vardy and all the experienced players, and play one minute or not play…
“I would prefer him to go to the Under 21s and play what Southgate decides, but I believe 90 or 80 minutes, a big part of matches, and contribute to his development.”
Rashford ended up making 18 appearances – all of them starts – last season under Mourinho’s predecessor Louis van Gaal.
This term his only action so far has been as a substitute in the Community Shield, while new frontman Zlatan Ibrahimovic has come in and netted four goals in three starts.
But Mourinho insists Rashford, who he has described as “amazing” for his age, has a bright future at United and will play “a lot”.
The Portuguese said: “Marcus is a young and talented player. We bought one striker (Ibrahimovic) – not two or three or four. If you don’t trust him or want him to play, you buy other strikers. That is not the case.
“Zlatan is playing and is showing why, and Marcus is our striker number two at the moment. For an 18-year-old boy, I think he is amazing.”
And Mourinho added: “They can play together because they did it already. They played against Leicester (the Community Shield game, a 2-1 victory) as a two when Marcus came on.”
Ibrahimovic’s fellow new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan is another yet to start a game so far this term, coming off the bench in the three so far – the Community Shield and then Premier League wins against Bournemouth and Southampton.
Mourinho has defended his decision on that front and says his confidence in midfielder Mkhitaryan is such that he does not need to rush his integration.
“It’s difficult but if (Juan) Mata is on the bench, you tell me I want to kick him out and want to sell him,” Mourinho said.
“If I don’t play (Anthony) Martial it’s because he is in crisis, or if I don’t play Ashley Young, it’s because I don’t like Ashley Young. If it’s Memphis Depay, it is because he is on his way out…
“It is because I think the others (starting ahead of Mkhitaryan) are playing really well.
“When some managers buy players they play them for sure because they think about protecting themselves – ‘I bought this player, I have to show the world I was right.’
“No – the first thing I think about is my team, not myself.
“Because I know he is a super player and I know for sure he will succeed, I am not in a hurry to say he plays every game now from the beginning, to show everyone how good he is. No.
“But he is ready to play and maybe he will play tomorrow (in United’s away league clash with Hull).”
Mourinho is also backing forward Martial to come good this term after a relatively quiet start.
The France international was frequently the star performer last season in a much-derided United side under Van Gaal that finished fifth in the Premier League.
Mourinho said: “I think when a team is not playing especially well and in the middle of that average level somebody comes out of that, he goes immediately to the highlight.
“I think this is a different picture. Last season, no Martial, no three points. This season, no Martial goals and three victories. The team is okay. Other players are scoring goals.
“I think he’s performing more than okay. I wouldn’t expect much more than that. He had no pre-season. He was the last one to arrive apart from Paul Pogba. Some guys take more time. I think he’s doing fine.
“I think he’s going to have a normal season. And for a guy of his qualities, a normal season is a good season so I think he will have a good season.”