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Martial v Mourinho: Why this expected Man Utd split can't be allowed to happen

COMMENT: Anthony Martial may feel snubbed by his manager. Mistreated. He may even want out. But without Jose Mourinho, the Frenchman may never have become a Manchester United player.

That's the crazy thing about this whole Martial-Mourinho drama. While it would appear it is support from upon high - namely Ed Woodward - which is holding the line against his sale, Martial would long be a Chelsea player if Mourinho had had his way.

Cycle back over three years and it was Chelsea, not United, which first lodged a bid with Monaco for their exciting 18 year-old attacker. Initial enquiries from Chelsea, then United, were made early in the summer of 2015. Then, a week out from the deadline, came Chelsea's offer - but only after approval from their manager - Jose Mourinho. Sensing an auction, Vadim Vasilyev, Monaco's dynamic vice-president, was quick to get on the phone to Woodward: Act fast, or the lad's off to London. The United chief did hesitate - before coming in with their now famous €80m bid. Vasilyev, we heard at the time, virtually reached down the phone and snapped Woodward's hand off.

Of course, now we know reaching that €80m is heavily dependent on performance and title success. Chelsea's final offer was nearer half that price. But the bid was made - and on Mourinho's approval.

At United, the scouting staff have been cleaned out. Ryan Giggs, who watched Martial for almost a year, has long gone. Even much of the coaching team at Carrington when Martial arrived have now departed. But it's wrong to suggest Woodward is the lone voice of support as debate rages inside the club about whether to cut their No11 loose. Mourinho wanted to work with him at Chelsea. As did Rui Faria and big Silvino Louro. Like Louis van Gaal, Mourinho had his own scouting reports on Martial. He'd discussed him with his lieutenants. And they agreed for the club to go for him. So what's happened?

Well, the hints first came last summer. For Martial, the penny really should've dropped during Mourinho's very, very public pursuit of Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic. He left none of us second guessing. This was the wide player he wanted. He spoke openly about the Croatian. Why he needed him. Even the price.

Perisic would arrive to compete with Martial for a place on United's flank. Martial was more than a match for the attacker: Younger. Faster. And simply a better talent. But it was - and still is - the controllables which makes Perisic the superior player. His stamina. His desire. His raging bull attitude. Everything that is within Martial. Every quality he can personally improve. But over the 18 months working with Mourinho and his staff, he has yet to address.

And it's not like he doesn't have role models to draw daily inspiration from. Like with Perisic, Martial is a more naturally gifted footballer than his teammate, Alexis Sanchez. But it is the Chilean who will make things happen. Even when it's not falling for him.

Yeah, he can get stroppy when frustrated. Angry. But he never sulks. He never retreats into his shell. Alexis just doubles down. He'll make things happen. If the ball is bouncing off his shins. His passes wildly missing their mark. He'll still chase down a lost cause. Alexis wants to be involved. And that's what Mourinho is seeking from Martial.

For his talent and potential, Martial is a Manchester United player. But as it stands today, it's difficult to argue that he's a Jose Mourinho player. At least, not with the system he is currently favouring.

The word from Carrington is that after 18 months, Mourinho doesn't see Martial as a long-term wing option. The workrate just isn't there. And while there's a willingness amongst staff to field Martial centrally, the Frenchman is no Romelu Lukaku. He just isn't one to play the majority of the game with his back to goal. Martial wants to be facing his markers, taking them on - beating them. That's him at his best. But it's not what Mourinho is seeking in his centre-forward.

The same back-and-forth is also being staged in France. For some, Martial must be on the plane to Russia. Kylian Mbappe, the PSG striker, is one supporter.

"He (Martial) is easy to link-up with," says Mbappe. "We can improve our understanding, but it is very comfortable playing with him."

But others insist Didier Deschamps has better options available to him.

"Dimitri Payet (Marseille) must go to the World Cup ahead of Martial," says World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry. "He is a true No10 - and is more involved in the game."

Which is basically word-for-word what is being debated inside Carrington. Where does Martial fit? Can he up his intensity? Are there better options?

At 22, time is still on Martial's side. He only need glance across the locker room at Jesse Lingard to see what rewards perseverance can bring.

And that should also be the buzzword inside Mourinho's spacial Carrington office. Martial, for his age and potential, should be persevered with. Even if it's just another 12 months.

Today's Kevin de Bruyne isn't the 22 year-old Mourinho worked with at Chelsea. Nor is the current Mohamed Salah. The United manager should heed this season's lessons at Manchester City and Liverpool.

That potential Mourinho saw running around in a Monaco shirt three years ago is still there. He shouldn't write off Anthony Martial just yet.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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