Anthony Martial felt he had done enough against Wigan Athletic to keep his place at home to Hull City and was left bitterly disappointed by Jose Mourinho’s decision to drop him as the forward’s troubled second season at Old Trafford took another turn for the worse.
artial’s struggles to win over Mourinho come at a time when Manchester United’s hopes of finishing in the top four are being undermined by the most wasteful attack in the Premier League, with Wednesday’s goalless draw leaving the club four points adrift of Liverpool in fourth.
United denied that there was anything untoward behind Martial failing to appear for the warm-up against Hull and then being overlooked from the substitutes’ bench by Mourinho, who opted instead to introduce Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata, as the manager went in search of a winning goal.
But it is understood Martial was deeply frustrated to be left out after believing the manner in which he overcame a disappointing start in a central striking role against Wigan to set up United’s second and third goals after a move to a more familiar wide role on the left reflected well on his determination to impress.
Mourinho had told Martial that, if he performed “magnificently” in the FA Cup against Wigan on Sunday, he would also start in the league against Hull only to subsequently explain on Tuesday that the Frenchman had only done enough to earn a place among the substitutes.
Martial remains committed to forcing his way back into Mourinho’s plans after being dropped from the squad for the league game against Stoke and EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Hull prior to Wednesday’s oversight and the manager appears to need some inspiration from somewhere as he seeks to address his side’s shortcomings in front of goal.
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United are in pole position to sign Atletico Madrid and France striker, Antoine Griezmann, in the summer but that will not help Mourinho over the next few months in the quest for Champions League qualification. Juan Mata’s missed chance from close range against Hull was one of the latest examples of United’s profligacy in attack this season, where they have been overly reliant on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for goals. Marcus Rashford has not scored in the Premier League since September 24 and Wayne Rooney only once in the top flight since August 14.
United have created 41 so-called “big chances” but their conversion rate of those opportunities is comfortably the worst in the Premier League. They have converted 29.27 per cent of those big chances, which is 10.02 per cent worse than the next most wasteful side Southampton, who have finished 39.29 per cent of their best openings. With a big chance conversion rate of 60 per cent, Burnley finish more than twice as many of those openings as United.
Only Spurs (404) have had more shots in the top flight this term than United’s 390, an average of almost 17 per match, but only Hull and Southampton have a worse shot conversion ratio than United’s 8.46 per cent. To put that into context, Liverpool have had an almost identical number of shots as United (388) but have a shot conversion ratio of 13.4 per cent.
United scored 49 goals in 38 league games under Louis van Gaal last season, their worst return in the Premier League era. But if they continue at their current rate this term, they will finish the campaign with only five more goals than that total. That is just two more than the 52 Liverpool have scored after 23 matches.
“If you don’t score, you don’t win,” Ibrahimovic said. “We kept creating [against Hull] but we are not doing it like we know how to do and we are able to do.”
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