Anthony Martial was a spectator on the bench as Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw fired Manchester United to victory in the opening game of the new Premier League season. The French international’s future at Old Trafford is uncertain and being an unused substitute certainly won’t help matters.
Supporters are desperate to see Martial realise his potential at United, but he can’t even get on the pitch to prove his worth. Last season, the 22-year-old managed only five 90-minute appearances in the Premier League and was substituted in 72% of the games he started in.
Mourinho tried to play down the significance of Martial being an unused substitute for the fourth time in United’s last nine league outings, saying: “I want to play Martial, but I can’t. Paul Pogba can’t play 90 (minutes), Fred the same. I need more changes.”
Relationship sour with Mourinho
Martial doesn’t appear to have a healthy relationship with his manager, and things spiralled out of control last season. The French forward took criticism from Mourinho for his form compared to Romelu Lukaku, and saw United being linked to players who would operate in his position if signed – Willian (Chelsea) and Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan) most notably.
During pre-season, he angered Mourinho by failing to report to training for a week to attend the birth of his child, saying “family comes first”. The United manager could have fined him for the breach of discipline and it’s unlikely to have helped tensions between the two.
The last 12 months will do little for Martial’s confidence, with Mourinho actively seeking his replacement in the transfer market and having fallen out over him going AWOL this summer. It could be his last season at Old Trafford unless something changes.
The 22-year-old was named Golden Boy and was a regular in the French national team after a dream debut season at United, but he failed to make the squad that won the 2018 World Cup and finds his career at a crossroads.
Second fiddle despite Alexis continuing to struggle
The biggest insult to Martial is the face Alexis Sanchez continues to start ahead of him despite his woeful form. In United’s opening game against Leicester, the Chilean completed only 65% of his passes, was caught offside more than any of his teammates and failed to make a successful dribble in 90 minutes.
Mourinho may say Martial didn’t come on due to the need to give Fred and Pogba a rest, but this isn’t an isolate incident. It was happening all last season. Martial will be at Old Trafford until at least January, but his future is blurry beyond that.