Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has warned French international Anthony Martial that he needs to make the most of his first-team opportunities as the competition for places are really intense at Old Trafford this season. Martial was in the United starting line-up for the visit of Arsenal last weekend but he was not even named amongst the substitutes for the Red Devils’ midweek clash against Feyenoord in the UEFA Europe League.
Mourinho believes that Martial is finding it tough to adapt to the intensity of United's style of play this season. “The way the team played last season was probably more adaptive to Anthony,” said Mourinho.
“He was probably more comfortable playing that way, at that intensity, at that rate of ball possession and ball circulation. Probably he also needs some time but in our squad, especially in these positions, we have Mkhitaryan, [Jesse] Lingard, [Memphis] Depay, [Juan] Mata and [Marcus] Rashford. These are probably the positions where we have more options. You have one opportunity, you have two, you have three - if you don’t bite then somebody comes and takes the bait.”
The 20-year-old moved to Old Trafford at the end of the 2015 summer transfer window from AS Monaco for a fee of £36 million, which could potentially rise to £58 million, making him the most expensive teenage footballer till date. Martial enjoyed a remarkable first season at Old Trafford as he scored 17 goals in 49 appearances under Jose Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal. However, Martial has failed to emulate that form so far this campaign as he has scored just twice in 13 appearances.
The Frenchman’s performance against Arsenal was average and he was replaced by skipper Wayne Rooney after the hour mark. He lost his place in the side for the game against Feyenoord as United’s summer acquisition Henrikh Mkhitaryan was handed his first start since September. The Armenian international showcased his brilliance and is the running for a place in the starting line-up when United take on West Ham on Sunday.
Mourinho revealed that he is having headaches over team selection and leaving out Martial for the midweek game was to give a chance to Mkhitaryan.
“He [Martial] was OK for this game. It was just an option,” Mourinho said. “He played last Sunday [against Arsenal]. I cannot play with 12 players. I cannot have on the bench 19, 20. You wanted to see Mkhitaryan and I wanted to, too. I cannot play all of them at the same time. The players have to win their positions. They are friends, they are colleagues who work together every day but in the end, they compete among themselves to have more chance to play. Anthony played against Arsenal. Thursday was a moment to give a chance for Mkhitaryan to start.”
It will be interesting to see United’s line-up against West Ham and Mourinho will be desperate for all three points as his side are currently 9 points behind leaders Chelsea.
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