Gary Neville believes it was no surprise Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford had "become a target" for certain sections of the media because of his campaign work.
The 23-year-old has earned widespread admiration for his work to ensure free meals would be provided to disadvantaged children, helping to improve the lives of thousands during the coronavirus pandemic.
Rashford was last month made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to vulnerable children although he was the subject of a Sunday newspaper article last month, titled 'What a result! Campaigning football star Marcus Rashford has bought five luxury homes worth more than £2m'.
Rashford responded by tweeting: "Ok, so let's address this. I'm 23. I came from little. I need to protect not just my future but my family's too. To do that I made a decision at the beg of 2020 to start investing more in property.
"Please don't run stories like this alongside refs to 'campaigning'."
Neville praised Rashford for how he dealt with the article as the former United and England full-back lamented how young footballers are treated, recalling an incident with Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling a few years ago.
"I think it was expected that that would come at certain points," Neville said on ITV show Peston. "I think football players generally, when they're built up (that) will get knocked down again, it's happened before.
"I spoke before about bold leadership and Marcus Rashford's been bold over this last six months with what he's done, and they will always then become a target because of that. It's unfortunate.
"We saw it with Raheem Sterling a few years ago and he came to me personally during the European Championship where he talked to me about him being targeted, and he felt as though he was being unfairly criticised.
"And I think Marcus Rashford to be fair, his response to the Daily Mail was strong, it nipped it in the bud."
Rashford could miss Saturday's Premier League match against West Ham United due to a shoulder injury, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said last night.
The England international was substituted in the second half of United's 3-1 defeat by Paris St Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday.
"It's just niggling him, that shoulder injury," Solskjaer told BT Sport. "Let's see how quickly he can recover. Let's hope he can be ready for the West Ham game. But we don't know."