Revealed: The motivational pep talk Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Anthony Martial to try and save his Man United career
Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled Anthony Martial aside last month and told the France forward his Manchester United career would be best served by ignoring outside influences and instead heeding the advice of manager Jose Mourinho and others at the club.
Ibrahimovic’s pep talk came after Martial’s agent, Philippe Lamboley, had spoken publicly about exploring the possibility of a loan move to Sevilla for his client and echoed Mourinho’s warning that the 21-year-old should listen to him and not his representative.
Although frustrated at being omitted from United’s squad for the Premier League game at Stoke City last Saturday and Thursday’s EFL Cup tie away to Hull City, Martial is understood to have been receptive to Ibrahimovic and Mourinho’s messages and is determined to emerge a stronger player from a difficult second season at the club.
Ibrahimovic’s intervention is the latest example of how the Swede helps to police the Old Trafford dressing room and his influence on the squad and Martial has come to recognise that Mourinho would not have been so hard on him if he did not think the player was worth all the effort. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been in a similar situation this season.
Mourinho has said he will recall Martial for the visit of Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday and has told the player that, if he produces a “magnificent” performance against the Championship club, he will keep his place for the league match at home to Hull three days later.
Left-back Luke Shaw, who has not played since Nov 30, is also expected to start against Wigan.
Asked how Martial reacted to be omitted against Hull, Mourinho said: “I don’t know. I don’t speak with the players about how they take it. He will play Sunday and, if [on] Sunday he plays magnificent, he will play against Hull City in the next match. Simple.”
Martial has been twice warned publicly by Mourinho this season that he cannot keep passing up opportunities to impress given the competition for places out wide with Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
The Frenchman was involved in an acrimonious split from his partner, Samantha Jacquelinet, last year that became a distraction but he is thought to have found a new girlfriend, is happy in Manchester and eager to prove why the club paid Monaco an initial £36.3 million fee to make him the world’s most expensive teenager in September 2015. United will owe Monaco a further €10 million (£8.5 million) if Martial scores twice more to reach 25 goals.
Meanwhile, United captain Wayne Rooney has reiterated his desire to move into management once he retires from playing. “It’s something I’d love to do,” Rooney, 31, said. “My whole life has been around football and the minute I finish playing I would like to try and stay in the game and hopefully get the opportunity to manage. Players of this generation have enough money to not have to go into management so the ones who want to do it will be successful at it.”