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Nicky Butt: U23 football is rubbish, Rashford a £50m star

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The head of Manchester United’s youth academy pulled no punches in an interview with The Times, discussing the new Under-23 league, the recently sold United youngsters, and Marcus Rashford.

Salford City v Notts County - The Emirates FA Cup First Round Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

In an interview with Henry Winter published in The Times today, Nicky Butt, the man in charge of Mancheser United’s youth set up, went into depth on several subjects including the rise of Marcus Rashford, youth development, the young players who have recently left the club, and why he feels José Mourinho will get the Red Devils back to the top of English football.

Butt enthused about how teenage star Rashford has kept his feet on the ground throughout his meteoric rise to stardom over the last six months.

"You couldn’t pick a better player to be at the club, or any big club, than Marcus," Butt said.

"He still parks his car out front, not round the back with the first team players ... He sits next to his mates, eats dinner with them when he can ... If you gave him £8 million, he wouldn’t get carried away."

Butt also believes that, despite being yet to start a competitive game under new manager José Mourinho, Rashford will get his chance, and likened the 18-year-old’s situation to that of a young Ryan Giggs: "Marcus will get his opportunities in the first team because he’s that good. Lee Sharpe was the best player in the counrty as a youngster, but you couldn’t hold Ryan Giggs back much longer.

"If Marcus keeps doing what he’s doing with his pace and directness, it’s impossible to hold him back."

The former United midfielder went on to explain how he believes that Rashford’s best position may well be on the left-wing, cutting in onto his right foot, as opposed to the centre-forward role he has more regularly occupied since his first team debut in February. He also feels that the youngster’s start could yet rise even higher.

"[If] he does what he did last year this year," Butt suggested, "He’s a £50 million player straight away."

Several young players, such as Will Keane, Paddy McNair and Donald Love, were sold by United this summer, and Butt feels that it was the right decision to let them go, but there is one player he is hoping still has a future at Old Trafford: "They’re really good lads and will have a good life ... but they weren’t at the level for United.

"It doesn’t hurt me as much as, say, if Adnan Januzaj went and never came back. He’s got the level to play for United ... Maybe he’s not been as dedicated, a case of too much too soon, a millionaire now."

Butt also had some strong words for the new under-23 league, introduced by the FA this season: "The under-23s league is crap. If you’re not in the first team by 20, you’re not going to make the first team, so why have it at 23?"

And of the new manager, Butt believes he is the right man for the job, and will help United overcome a disappointing period: "The last couple of years have been a blip for us, José can change that. He’s a winner.

"Straight away he has that arrogance to win, that mentality ... Sir Alex had it, all the best players, [Eric] Cantona, [Roy] Keane, [Bryan] Robson all had that arrogance that they’re the best. That’s what United is."

If you’d like to read the full interview, you can find it here on The Times’ website.