Hungry team-mates ready to eat Martial's lunch

Manchester United's Anthony Martial in action with Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal on Nov 19, 2016.
Manchester United's Anthony Martial in action with Arsenal's Carl Jenkinson during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal on Nov 19, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Jose Mourinho believes Anthony Martial is struggling to adjust to the intensity he demands from his Manchester United players and has warned that, if the Frenchman does not grab his chance when selected, others will "take the bait".

Martial enjoyed an outstanding opening season at United when he was arguably the club's best player following a £36 million (S$64.1 million) move from Monaco in September last year.

The forward scored 17 times in 45 appearances and was an automatic choice under Louis van Gaal, initially at centre-forward before moving to the left after Marcus Rashford's emergence. This season, though, he has struggled for form and is not always a first choice.

Van Gaal's side were notable for a sluggish tempo and his successor Mourinho believes the change of pace has hindered Martial.

Asked whether the 20-year-old was suffering second-season syndrome, the manager said: "First of all the teams are very different. The way the team played last season... He was probably more comfortable playing that way, at that intensity, at that (rate) of ball possession and ball circulation.

"Probably he also needs some time but in our squad, especially in these positions, we have (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Jesse) Lingard, (Memphis) Depay, (Juan) Mata, Rashford. These are probably the positions where we have more options. You have one opportunity, you have two, you have three - if you don't bite, then somebody comes and takes the bait."

Martial was not in the line-up for Thursday's 4-0 win over Feyenoord in the Europa League and he is unlikely to feature against West Ham in the Premier League today.

"We play another difficult game on Sunday and see if we can get the three points," said Mourinho, who suggested his side are capable of repeating the emphatic nature of the Feyenoord victory in the league.

"One day it can happen," he said. "Big results are not very usual in the Premier League... Every game is very difficult. Rather than winning one game 5-0, we need to win four or five matches. That's what we need. Let's try to get points."

With just one win in their last six Premier League games, United have slipped to sixth and need rapid domestic improvement.

West Ham are just one point and one place above the relegation places following last weekend's agonising late defeat at Tottenham.

It has also raised questions over the long-term future of manager Slaven Bilic. "I feel the pressure of course, because we are not delivering and performing enough to get points to feel happy," said Bilic.

"But I see the improvement, I see the team that is hungry and alive."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Hungry team-mates ready to eat Martial's lunch'. Print Edition | Subscribe