Friday 18 October 2019

Comment: Jose Mourinho tested the waters with Anthony Martial - and now he knows where he stands at Man United

Jose Mourinho has changed his tune on Anthony Martial's future (Martin Rickett/PA)
Jose Mourinho has changed his tune on Anthony Martial's future (Martin Rickett/PA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

WHEN Jose Mourinho inserted the name of Anthony Martial on his extensive transfer wish-list, he knew he was playing with fire.

While Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld, Chelsea winger Willian, Inter Milan's Croatia star Ivan Perisic and Shakhtar Donetsk attacking talent Fred were viable transfer targets for the world's richest club to sign ahead of this new season, it was Mourinho's list of cast-offs that included the most divisive name.

After splashing out £250m on new players in his first two years as United manager, Mourinho was aware of the need to off-load unwanted talent to fund new arrivals, so recommended the players he felt he could do without.

After a season that saw Martial left out of a host of key games as Mourinho hinted he could not trust him to perform when it mattered most, it was no surprise that the France striker was on his roll-call of outcasts and that request instantly set him on a collision course with his paymasters.

United CEO Ed Woodward and the club's owners are huge admirers of the striker left out of the France World Cup squad this summer and believe he has the potential to be one of the world's best players, but Mourinho only wants players willing to go to war for him and he has long since concluded Martial is not cut out to do that.

Mourinho made his feelings known after United's 1-0 defeat against Brighton last May, as the United boss handed Martial a rare Premier League start and suggested he 'got what he expected' from a set of players lacking the stomach for the fight.

"The players who replaced others did not perform at a good level and, when individuals do that, it is difficult for the team to play well," he said after the game against Chris Hughton's side.

"Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much. People always ask: 'Why always Lukaku?' Well, now they know why always Lukaku, and why always this player and why always that player. We are probably not as good as people think we are individually.

"I knew what was going to happen, and I told them, but that is what we got. Our target was to get points to help us finish second and they clearly showed that, for them, it is more important for them to stay in the Premier League than for us to finish second. We were not able to motivate ourselves."

They were damning words clearly directed, in part, towards Martial and a few days later, Mourinho handed over his transfer plans to Woodward and urged the club to sell the player signed from Monaco in an extravagant £50m deal three years ago.

A public declaration from Martial's agent Philippe Lamboley confirming his client wanted to leave United soon followed, with Tottenham given encouragement from the French striker's camp that he would welcome a move to north London.

It was a chain of events that would normally precede a big-money transfer and yet instead, the impasse on Martial's future has served to highlight the now public divide between Mourinho, Woodward and the United board.

The United boss wanted the bulk of his transfer business concluded before the World Cup finals, as he believed deals to sign Alderweireld and even Bale were possible after both players gave strong hints that they were ready to move to Old Trafford.

Yet Woodward stalled on paying the lavish fees Mourinho's top targets commanded and with just two days left of a truncated transfer window, United are looking at a crisis that many believe will conclude with another high profile manager parting company with the club.

Mourinho's dark mood that became the norm last season took a turn for the worse as he grumpily moved around America on United's pre-season tour, with his press conference appearances doing little to banish the notion that he fears his time in what was described as his 'dream job' may soon come to an end.

This combustible character has rarely made it through three seasons at one club in his well-travelled career and amid his suggestion that United face a 'difficult season' unless his transfer targets are captured, this story appears to be heading in one direction.

Mourinho asked a question about his own future when he offered up Martial as one of the big-names United should sell this summer and if the striker is still in his squad when the transfer window shuts at 5pm tomorrow, he will have his answer.

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