Gary Neville has defended his decision to pick Arsenal’s over forward in his Team of the Season.
The two players have both enjoyed very productive campaigns, with the Brazilian netting 15 times and laying on five assists in 36 appearances and playing an integral role in the Gunners’ ultimately unsuccessful title bid.
Rashford has scored one more goal than Martinelli in three fewer appearances and enjoyed a particularly rich vein of form after returning from the World Cup.
Despite already having three other Arsenal players – William Saliba, Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard – in his Team of the Season, and no United players, Neville felt Martinelli just edged out Rashford.
But some Red Devils fans were not best pleased with Neville’s selections – with Luke Shaw also overlooked at left-back for Brighton’s Pervis Estupinan – but the pundit has defended his decision.
‘Rashford and Martinelli have almost identical stats,’ tweeted Neville in response to a United fan who suggested his pick was based on not wanting to come across as biased towards his old club.
‘It just came down to the football and combinations I’ve seen from Martinelli and Arsenal’s season with his impact on it.’
Reflecting on his line-up, he added: ‘When choosing a Team of the Season you get stuck on a few positions.
‘My challenges were goalkeeper, left-back, second centre-back to go with Ruben Dias and Rashford or Martinelli on the left. The rest for me were certainties in my mind.’
On why he elected to pick Dias over John Stones – who has often played in midfield this season – Neville added: ‘Stones has only played 11 games as a centre-back.’
Neville picked Newcastle duo Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier as his goalkeeper and right-back respectively, with a trio of players from champions Manchester City completing the rest of his XI.
Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne were both selected in midfield alongside Odegaard, while Arsenal’s widemen were separated by Premier League top scorer Erling Haaland taking up the centre-forward role.
Rashford, meanwhile, missed Saturday’s win over Bournemouth due to illness but will be hoping to return to action for home games against Chelsea and Fulham, where he will fancy his chances of adding to his goal tally for the season.
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