Marcus Rashford wins the Guardian player of the year

Marcus Rashford has won the Guardian Footballer of the Year award for 2020.

The Manchester United forward reflects on an extraordinary year where he improved the lives of millions of people — and we’re not talking just Manchester United fans.

He’s excelled on the pitch, as usual, but Rashford can no longer be defined as just a footballer.

By helping the countries vulnerable children he is held in the highest regard, even by United’s biggest rivals who wouldn’t usually be complimentary about one of our players.

Rashford’s mum, Mel, had a biggest influence on his upbringing. The striker told the Guardian: “She’s everything. Every positive characterise you see in me is her. If I could describe her in three words it would be strong, protective, undefeated.”

That’s a wonderful thing to say about his mum, and I echo those sentiments about my own.

But I had it easier than Rashford. As a boy he’d rely on breakfast clubs, free school meals and snacks while food banks and soup kitchens were a part of his upbringing.

“I was concerned for children just like me if the schools closed as part of the national lockdown,” he added. “Without breakfast club and free school meals, I had very little. What would me and my mum have done?

“I’d injured my back last January and spent time with families during the early stages of my recovery through FareShare and it was clear they were as reliant on the food vouchers [for school meals] as the food banks. It wasn’t one or the other. They needed both to survive. I knew what that felt like. I knew what fear in my mum looked like. I didn’t want that for any child or any parent.”

Setbacks have not once thrown Rashford off focus.

Like in June, when the government rejected his plea for it to keep paying the £15-a-week food vouchers for some of the poorest families during the summer break, he forced them into a U-turn. It wasn’t the last time either.

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