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Marcus Rashford: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hails 'incredible' forward following free school meals campaign

"He's changed the lives of so many kids this summer, which is more important than any game of football he will probably play," says Manchester United boss

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Marcus Rashford's 'incredible' off-field activism and says the forward could be a future captain for club and country.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Marcus Rashford is "incredible" after the Manchester United forward successfully pressured the government into extending their free school meals scheme for another six weeks.

The government originally planned to stop handing out £15-a-week food vouchers to those in need over the school summer holidays following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

But Rashford - who pointed to his own family's struggles to afford food when he was a child - argued the financial turmoil of the pandemic meant families would still need support from the government over the coming months.

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The 22-year-old's campaign gained support amongst the public and in parliament, forcing the government to make a U-turn and continue to make the food vouchers available to around 1.3m children in England.

Solskjaer said: "What Marcus has done has been incredible.

"Marcus has always been a great human being, and coming up through the academy, I think the club recognised that early on and gave him chances. Of course we saw the talent, but you need to be a really good human being to come all the way through.

"He's changed the lives of so many kids this summer, which is more important than any game of football he will probably play. Hopefully he can keep both going as well as he is doing now."

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Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford has thanked everyone who helped his campaign to get the government to change their mind and provide free school meals through the summer holidays

Rashford's successful lobbying of the government followed on from the charity work he has been involved in during football's shutdown, which saw him partner with charity FareShare to raise over £20m to help feed children in the community.

"It's been fantastic to follow Marcus throughout the lockdown period," added Solskjaer. "It's not only that he got the prime minister to change his mind, but also what he's done over the last few months.

"Marcus is a top, top human being, and he's brought his own experiences as a kid into this conversation to change the lives of so many kids.

"He's already been captain of the club at such a young age, and he's proving all the time his human qualities - which is a main attribute of a Man Utd player."

Mourinho: Rashford is a man with principles

Rashford's former manager Jose Mourinho - who he will come up against in United's first Premier League match since the shutdown, away to Tottenham on Friday, live on Sky Sports - also offered his congratulations to the forward.

Marcus Rashford and Jose Mourinho during Man Utd's win over Liverpool
Image: Mourinho offered his congratulations to Rashford for his successful campaign

The Spurs head coach said: "He did amazingly well, I congratulate him for that.

"It is a bit strange for me that one football player can make it happen; if it happens, it's because the government realised it was the right thing to do. They shouldn't wait for one player to come publicly to put some pressure on them to do it.

"The 18-year-old kid that I met a few years ago, to me is now a man and a man with principles. To fight for kids very similar to him when he was a young kid, it's something very nice from Marcus."

Solskjaer backs Black Lives Matter campaign: 'Enough is enough'

Solskjaer also added his backing to the Black Lives Matter movement after players from all four Premier League sides that played on Wednesday took a knee at kick-off.

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Solskjaer says he believes real change is 'finally' occurring in the battle against racism, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The campaign was reignited following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody in the US last month, sparking protests all over the world.

Solskjaer said: "It's been an event in history that's changed people's views. I think we all know this shouldn't happen in 2020. We all make a stand: enough is enough.

"Maybe this time, finally, it is changing. It's been on the agenda for many, many years, this issue of racism, and we've had a couple of incidents in the league. We've talked about it but maybe it's then forgotten.

"Well this time, hopefully, it will affect more and more people, and leaders of countries and decision makers. I think we all support the actions."

Solskjaer hopeful over Gomes future

Angel Gomes
Image: Angel Gomes is set to leave Old Trafford at the end of June

Ahead of United's first Premier League fixture since the shutdown, Solskjaer said he was hopeful promising young midfielder Angel Gomes would agree to stay at the club.

The 19-year-old has played for the first team eight times this season, but his contract expires at the end of the month and no extension has yet been signed.

Solskjaer said: "He's a top kid that we've had for so many years. We've offered him a deal - hopefully he'll take that. If not, I wish him all the best. From what I understand, it's not too far away."

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