In his first statement after England's agonizing loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final in front of their home crowd, Marcus Rashford in a social media post late on Monday said that he was thankful to his team mates for the support they extended to him and that he was overwhelmed by the messages of support towards him.
Marcus Rashford, 23, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 19, were the targets of racial abuse on Twitter and other social media platforms after they missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout with Italy which settled Sunday's final after the game finished as a 1-1 draw.
The comments prompted a police investigation and wide condemnation, although critics accused some ministers of the hypocrisy of refusing to support a high-profile anti-racist stance the players had made during the tournament.
"I don't even know where to start and I don't even know how to put into words how I'm feeling at this exact time. I've had a difficult season, I think that's been clear for everyone to see and I probably went into that final with a lack of confidence. I've always backed myself for a penalty but something didn't feel quite right. During the long run-up, I was saving myself a bit of time and unfortunately, the result was not what I wanted," Rashford said in his statement.
The 23-year-old said he was disappointed to let his teammates and fans down by missing the penalty against Italy but added that he would never have any issues about his origin.
"I felt as though I had let my teammates down. I felt as if I'd let everyone down. A penalty was all I'd been asked to contribute for the team. I can penalties in my sleep so why not that one? It's been playing in my head over and over since I struck the ball and there's probably not a word to quite describe how it feels. Final. 55 years. 1 penalty. History. All I can say is sorry.
"I wish it had of gone differently. Whilst I continue to say sorry I want to shoot out my teammates. This summer has been one of the best camps I've experienced and you've all played a role in that. Brotherhood has been built that is unbreakable. Your success is my success. Your failures are mine.
"I've grown into a sport where I expect to read things written about myself. Whether it be the colour of my skin, where I grew up, or, most recently, how I decide to spend my time off the pitch. I can take critique of my performance all day long, my penalty was not good enough, it should have gone in, but I will never apologise for who I am and where I came from.
"I've felt no prouder moment than wearing those three lions on my chest and seeing my family cheer me on in a crowd of 10s of thousands. I dreamt of days like this," he said.
The Manchester United forward, whose mural in the city was vandalised, also posted letters of support he has received from fans against the racial abuse.
"The messages I've received today have been positively overwhelming and seeing the response in Withington had me on the verge of tears. The communities that always wrapped their arms around me continue to hold me up. I'm Marcus Rashford, a 23-year-old black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.
"For all the kind messages, thank you. I'll be back strong. We'll be back stronger."
Rashford also received support from England captain Harry Kane and manager Gareth Southgate.
"Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up & take a pen when the stakes were high," England captain Harry Kane wrote on Twitter.
"They deserve support & backing, not the vile racist abuse they've had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media you're not an @England fan and we don't want you."
England manager Gareth Southgate called the abuse "unforgivable".