Fight like Micki, Martial urged

Anthony Martial has been targeted by Sevilla as a loan signing in next month's transfer window.
Anthony Martial has been targeted by Sevilla as a loan signing in next month's transfer window.PHOTO: REUTERS

Mourinho feels Frenchman just needs more time to improve but others like Depay can go

LONDON • Manchester United will rebuff any attempts to prise Anthony Martial away from Old Trafford next month, after Jose Mourinho told the striker to follow Henrikh Mkhitaryan's example in forcing his way into the starting line-up.

Martial has been targeted by Sevilla as a loan signing in next month's transfer window, after finding himself on the fringe of Mourinho's plans, but the Red Devils have no intention of allowing the France forward to leave.

The likes of Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger will be allowed to move when the transfer window opens, but Mourinho believes that Martial merely needs time to work on his game.

A late cameo as a substitute in the Boxing Day victory over Sunderland was the 21-year-old's first appearance in a fortnight and the player is understood to be frustrated by what he perceives as a lack of opportunities.

Yet, Mourinho highlighted the attitude of the Armenian Mkhitaryan, who has become increasingly influential, having made only two starts in the English Premier League by the beginning of this month.

"Every player is different," Mourinho said. "I had this season a situation that was more difficult than Anthony - Mkhitaryan.

"Micki was completely open and understood the difference between me and other coaches he had. The difference between the demands of the Premier League and the Ukrainian league, or even Bundesliga: Complete different philosophy of play. And he worked a lot without playing, but he worked a lot to try to reach the level.

"Anthony is very, very young - people forget - and last season Manchester United played completely differently. He was basically playing up front. The team had lots of passive ball possession, just waiting to put it into space for Anthony to go and score a goal. This season is more difficult. He needs a little bit of time to improve."

United paid an initial £36 million (S$64 million) for Martial in August last year and he scored 17 goals in all competitions. He has scored only four goals this term, but Mourinho is determined to persevere with the player as long as Martial is committed to the cause.

United's hopes of an auction developing for Depay have increased after Roma also registered an interest in the winger to rival Everton's.

The Toffees remain in pole position for the 22-year-old, who has been pushed to the periphery of Mourinho's plans, having signed for £28 million from PSV Eindhoven 18 months ago.

Mourinho has told Depay that he can leave when the transfer window opens next week and the player's preference is to remain in the Premier League and join fellow Dutchman Ronald Koeman.

Victor Lindelof, a United target, is on the verge of signing a new contract with Benfica that will increase his buyout clause to more than £50 million, according to reports in Portugal.

Benfica are also thought to need to pay Lindelof's first club in Sweden, Vasteras, 20 per cent of any future fee.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2016, with the headline 'Fight like Micki, Martial urged'. Print Edition | Subscribe