Football

Martial's star loses shine

Mourinho unimpressed by youngster who was 
once hailed as the next big thing at Old Trafford

MAN UNITED v WEST HAM
(Tomorrow, 12.30am, Singtel TV Ch 103 
& StarHub TV Ch 228 - Eleven Plus)

He was touted as an unpolished diamond, an heir apparent to Thierry Henry, after his performances in his first season with Manchester United.

French forward Anthony Martial, 20, impressed in the last campaign after his move from Monaco for a whopping initial fee of £36 million, scoring 17 goals to finish as the club's top scorer.

At a club with a reputation for blooding youngsters, many fans felt Martial (above) was on the way to stardom, but, today, he risks slipping from the first-team picture at United if he does not start making more of his opportunities, manager Jose Mourinho has warned.

Martial has scored only twice this season and been in and out of the starting 11 and was left out of the matchday squad entirely for Thursday's 4-0 Europa League win over Feyenoord.

He was one of the few success stories in Louis van Gaal's troubled season with the Red Devils in 2015/16, but many fear he is on the brink of being dumped in the wilderness by Mourinho, after the Portuguese's latest comments.

Asked if he felt Martial was suffering from "second-season syndrome", Mourinho said: "First of all, the teams are very different.

"The way the team played last season - and I'm not saying better or worse, just different - was probably more adapted to Anthony.

"Probably he was feeling more comfortable playing that way, at that intensity, at that rhythm of the ball possession and ball circulation. So probably he needs some time.

"But in our squad, for the positions Martial plays in, we have (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Jesse) Lingard, (Memphis) Depay, (Juan) Mata and (Marcus) Rashford. These are probably the positions where we have more options.

"Therefore, you have one opportunity, you have two, you have three - if you don't bite then somebody comes and takes the meat."

Mkhitaryan made his first start since Sept 10 against Feyenoord, playing in Martial's usual left-sided role and was named Man of the Match after a display brimming with attacking endeavour.

United's win left them one point from the Europa League knockout phase and they now turn their attention back to the Premier League, with West Ham United due at Old Trafford tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

United have yet to make an impression on the title race, but Mourinho cited the example of Chelsea's 2014-15 title-winning season - which he feels has been overlooked amid criticism of his mixed start at United - as a reason for optimism.

"We go one match at a time," Mourinho said.

"When I won the last title, 18 years ago - sorry, 18 months ago - I had 10 points' advantage and then in one month I had the same points as Man City. We lost 10 points in one month.

"Then we recovered and won the title 18 years ago - sorry, 18 months ago. So you can recover points. Other teams can lose points.

"During the season there are moments where everything goes against you. There are moments where everything goes in your favour. So we know the game is not over." - AFP.

 

eplManchester UnitedWest Ham United