Martial shows the way
Under-fire United forward reminds Mourinho of his qualities
|MAN UNITED||WEST HAM|
|(Zlatan Ibrahimovic 2, 90+3, Anthony Martial 48, 62)||(Ashley Fletcher 35)|
The heat was on him, and he silenced his critics in the most emphatic fashion.
Anthony Martial breathed new life into his Manchester United career with a brace in the 4-1 victory over West Ham yesterday morning (Singapore time) to send the Red Devils into the semi-finals of the League Cup.
Martial's (photo) lively performance served as a timely reminder to Jose Mourinho that he could be the spark to ignite what has been a dull campaign for United so far.
The 20-year-old wide forward, who took his goal tally in all competitions to four, thrived in a new-look front four that could potentially turn United's season around.
At its tip, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored the first and last goals, profited from the dynamic movement of the supporting trio behind him.
Wayne Rooney's encouraging display in his No. 10 role suggested he still has plenty to offer.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was outstanding on the right, and ended the night with two assists.
On the opposite flank, Martial displayed the form that made him one of the club's best performers last season, when he fired in 17 goals in all competitions.
In a demonstration of power, pace and panache, the flamboyant Frenchman killed off the jaded Hammers.
His side-footed finish in the 48th minute restored the hosts' lead, after Ashley Fletcher had cancelled out Ibrahimovic's early opener in the first half.
Martial added a second in the 62nd minute before Ibrahimovic hammered the final nail in the coffin in injury time.
This reminder of his ability was exactly what the doctor ordered for Martial, who had cut a dispirited figure since the start of the season. Yesterday morning's start was only his 10th in United's 22 games (all competitions) this season.
When he was left out of Mourinho's squad completely in the Europa League fixture against Feyenoord last week and the Premier League outing against West Ham last Sunday, the exit rumours started floating around.
Mourinho couldn't see the hunger in his game, saying: "You have one opportunity, you have two, you have three - if you don't bite, then somebody comes and takes the bait."
Last month, Martial was also left out of the France squad for the World Cup qualifier against Sweden and the friendly against the Ivory Coast.
"He is not at the level where he should be," explained Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps, under whom Martial won all of his 15 international caps.
But, using Mourinho's analogy, Martial has now snapped at the "bait" when given his chance.
Whether he has regained Mourinho's trust remains to be seen.