Monday 25 March 2019

Mourinho to punish want-away Martial as striker plans return to training

Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: Sportsfile
Manchester United's Anthony Martial. Photo: Sportsfile

Luke Edwards in Miami

Anthony Martial could be disciplined by Manchester United after going absent without leave following the birth of his son in Paris last week.

United manager Jose Mourinho said yesterday he had no idea when the striker would return to training and the Frenchman appeared to be trying to force his way out of the club.

Martial later confirmed he will return to training today having not trained for eight days in the middle of a pre-season designed to ensure he is match-fit for the start of the Premier League season and there is confusion as to what he hoped to gain with this show of defiance.

Mourinho was expecting the 22-year-old to rejoin the squad in America when he gave him permission to leave last week. There has been no contact between manager and player since.

Following the birth of son Swan, Martial did not return for the remaining tour friendlies and didn't report to the club's Carrington training ground either.

Martial appeared to defend his absence yesterday by suggesting his partner Melanie da Cruz had encountered difficulties while giving birth and that his family "will always come first".

"Thank you all for your posts," he wrote on Twitter. "My little Swan is fine, for the mum it was harder but thanks to God she's better now. Sorry but my family will always come first... Back tomorrow in Manchester."

Martial wants to leave Old Trafford this summer but United are reluctant to sell and will not sanction any departure to a Premier League rival. Paris Saint-Germain are understood to retain an interest though a move is reliant on the sale of one of their star forwards.

Although United finished their US tour with a 2-1 victory over European champions Real Madrid, Mourinho was distracted by questions around Martial's absence. In stressing that the team spirit in the group had impressed him over the last fortnight, while thanking Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford for agreeing to return to training three days early, there was a pointed dig at Martial.

"My players (have been])amazing in their effort but we have more effort in front of us," said Mourinho after goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera secured the win over Real. "We go to Munich in a few days and then we start the Premier League.

"These are the players that we have plus (Victor) Lindelof, who started training two days ago, plus Rashford, (Phil) Jones and Lukaku. They're coming back three days early to try and be available for the team (against Leicester on August 10). That is the fantastic spirit we have in the majority of the players."

Even with three players cutting their breaks short, Mourinho is still without Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini, all of whom remain on holiday. Antonio Valencia, Mourinho's newly-appointed captain, and Nemanja Matic are also set to miss the Premier League opener against Leicester through injury.

Mourinho played down the importance of United's first pre-season victory in normal time, but praised the performances of his senior players on the tour.

"The match doesn't change anything," he said of the victory over Madrid. "My professional players were amazing all pre-season because they know we play against good teams, against good opponents. We have just a few players here and lots of kids.

"People like (Ander) Herrera, (Eric) Bailly, (Juan) Mata, (Matteo) Darmian - they were phenomenal all pre-season, playing almost every minute of every game," he added.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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