Following rumours of the French forward departing over the summer, stories are emerging that Anthony Martial is in talks over a new long term deal at Manchester United. The former Monaco striker joined the Red Devils on a four-year deal in 2015 and, even though there is already an option for a 12 month extension, the new offer hints that he is very much a part of United’s long term plans.
Such news would not usually be worth discussion were it not for the path his career has taken since his arrival, and in particular his treatment from manager Jose Mourinho. The teenager scored 17 goals in his first season at Old Trafford and finished the campaign as the club’s leading scorer. The Frenchman started 29 league games that season but made the starting line-up on just 18 occasions in each of the following two years after Jose Mourinho took charge. Since his first season he has only found the net a further 19 times, leading to suggestions he would leave this summer. His latest humiliation as he was substituted after an hour in his team’s defeat at Brighton seemed to all but confirm the end of his United career.
Marcus Rashford has suffered a similar fate since he broke into the first team in 2015/16. In truth it was always going to be impossible for the striker to maintain the prolificacy of his first few months, when he scored a brace in his first two matches and the winner in his first Manchester derby, leading to a call-up to England’s Euro 2016 squad. However, it appeared that he would at least be a regular starter for the Red Devils. Like Martial, Rashford found his opportunities limited by the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as Mourinho opted for experience.
A new contract for the Swede a year later, even though Romelu Lukaku had since joined, made the situation very clear for both Rashford and Martial. Mourinho can point to the fact that Rashford has made 107 appearances during his tenure, but during that period he has started just 28 times as a centre forward. Although he has been handed the number ten shirt previously worn by Wayne Rooney and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, his future as a striker is uncertain.
Unsure over Shaw and others
Mourinho’s relationship with Luke Shaw is even stranger. The 23-year-old has been criticised by the Portuguese on a number of occasions for a perceived lack of fitness and positional awareness, with Mourinho even claiming that Shaw only played well when he received continuous instructions from the sidelines. Last season saw Ashley Young preferred at left back, but Shaw has reclaimed his place with a goal on the opening day against Leicester. He was also, pointedly, publicly congratulated by Mourinho after the 3-0 defeat to Tottenham.
What can fans make of Mourinho’s approach to Scott McTominay? The Scottish midfielder started 14 games last year and the manager went as far as to name him as his own Player of the Season in May. Michael Carrick’s retirement seemed the ideal time for McTominay to become a regular at the club, only for Fred to join. To Mourinho’s credit, he has included the 21-year-old in his match day squad for all three games so far this season.
The only youngster to make obvious progress since Mourinho’s arrival is Jesse Lingard. Now a regular for both club and country, Lingard had long been tipped for success before he broke through in the 2015/16 campaign, which he ended with the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Unlike Rashford and Martial, he has figured prominently for the Red Devils with 30 starts in all competitions last season and 28 the year before.
Lingard had several loan spells away from Old Trafford while Alex Ferguson, David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal were in charge of the club, but the plan was to bring him back to Manchester once he had gained experience. Fans can only hope that a similar path is mapped out for Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, but Mourinho’s track record doesn’t bode well. Lukaku, Leonardo Bonnucci and Thorgan Hazard are among the players loaned out by Mourinho, only to then be sold without an opportunity.
If Martial is indeed offered a new deal, will this be because Mourinho or the board wants him? The Portuguese has explicitly stated that Martial is not of the required standard, but the club aren’t giving up on the Frenchman just yet. Whether Mourinho has or not might start a new approach to his management of young players. Alternatively, Martial’s future at Old Trafford might signal the end of Mourinho’s.