Martial in a 'happy' place

Forward Anthony Martial wheeling away in delight after scoring Manchester United's fourth goal against Burton in the League Cup on Wednesday. He will hope to be in the starting XI today.
Forward Anthony Martial wheeling away in delight after scoring Manchester United's fourth goal against Burton in the League Cup on Wednesday. He will hope to be in the starting XI today.PHOTO: REUTERS

Forward's improvement down to an attitude change as Mourinho praises Saints' stability

LONDON • Jose Mourinho believes Anthony Martial's impressive start to the season is because the Manchester United forward is far happier than he was last year.

The 21-year-old has scored four times in seven appearances this term, half of his overall total of eight last season.

Martial has managed the tally despite starting only three times.

"I see a great improvement in the person, in the mood, in the face, in the body language - if you want just a word, in the happiness," Mourinho said of the Frenchman's return to form yesterday.

"(Martial) is a happy guy, he's working extremely well. He starts matches, he tries to do well. (If) he goes from the bench, even (if) it is for 10 minutes like in the last (league) match at home, he tries to enjoy and to give something in these extra minutes.

" I am very pleased with his attitude overall and then it's easier to play well."

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Earlier this week, anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out wrote to United, urging them to stop fans from singing a chant that alludes to the size of Romelu Lukaku's manhood, on the basis that it reinforces racist stereotypes.

The striker has subsequently asked fans to "move on" from the chant, via the club's official Twitter account.

Mourinho sidestepped the issue at his pre-match press conference, preferring to focus on today's visit to Southampton.

"Don't ask me these questions. I want the fans to support the football and to support the players. That's what I want," the United manager said.

United travel to St Mary's for their sixth league match of the season. Mauricio Pellegrino's side are in ninth position with eight points, five behind Mourinho's team who are joint-top of the table with arch-rivals Manchester City.

Mourinho was full of praise for Southampton, who were defeated in February's League Cup final to earn Mourinho's first major trophy as United manager.

"Southampton is the kind of club that are very stable in the way they play and in the way they see football, the qualities of their players," he said. "Honestly, I think it's a very good club to be manager of. And I see the match tomorrow as a very difficult match."

Pellegrino is ready to include defender Virgil van Dijk in his plans after the Dutchman made it clear that he wanted a move away until transfer deadline day.

"After a long period of time without playing a game, he is training well," said the Southampton manager. "It's good news for us, because we need Virgil, we'll decide tomorrow (if he will play)."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'Martial in a 'happy' place'. Print Edition | Subscribe