Manchester United are facing questions over their handling of Marcus Rashford after the England striker was ruled out for up to three months with a double stress fracture in his back. Photo: Rui Vieira/AP Photo

Manchester United are facing questions over their handling of Marcus Rashford after the England striker was ruled out for up to three months with a double stress fracture in his back.

Rashford vowed yesterday to return ‘fitter than ever’ but there are concerns that he could be out for even longer, casting doubt not only over his availability for the rest of the season, but for Euro 2020.

The 22-year-old striker has struggled with a back problem for some time and uses a Melmak fracture healing device to ease the pain with ultrasound. United are well aware of the issue, yet Rashford has played more games than any of his team-mates this season — 30 appearances.

He has been relied upon to lead the attack and shoulder much of the goalscoring burden after United failed to sign replacements for Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in the summer.

Having taken Rashford off as a precaution against Norwich in the Premier League 10 days ago, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted that his decision to use him as a substitute in the FA Cup third-round replay against Wolves last Wednesday had ‘backfired’ after the player came off injured 16 minutes later.

There is some confusion over whether Rashford suffered a fresh injury or aggravated an existing problem. United did not respond to enquiries yesterday but Solskjaer is likely to face questions about the issue at a press conference this morning. Either way, it has left United with just 10 days of the transfer window remaining to find a short-term replacement after it was confirmed that there is no recall option in Sanchez’s loan deal with Inter Milan.

United have already been offered unsettled Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani and Lyon’s Moussa Dembele.

Former United striker Robin van Persie warned yesterday that Rashford is always likely to have a weakness in his back.

The Dutchman revealed a stress fracture kept him out of action for four months. ‘It’s a difficult one because it always stays a little bit like a weak spot,’ said Van Persie. ‘Even now, it’s not that I’m in pain, but it’s a sensitive area.’

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara accused United of failing to protect Rashford and claimed that a similar problem ended his top-flight career. ‘It’s a major injury and I’m gobsmacked they’ve allowed him to continue playing,’ O’Hara told talksport.

‘For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to say he’s going to be back in six weeks is ridiculous. A double stress fracture to the spine is three months minimum. I needed surgery in the end and that’s when my career started to go down because I couldn’t get back to the pace of where you need to be.’

News of Rashford’s injury compounded a miserable Sunday for United, when their problems were exposed by rampant Liverpool, who won 2-0 at Anfield.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has called for executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to be sacked over his ‘unforgiveable’ record in the transfer market.

‘If you don’t lose your job for overseeing that investment, that wage bill, and putting that team out on the pitch, then I have to say something is really wrong,’ said the former United defender.

Daily Mail