Anthony Martial and Jose Mourinho relationship reaches breaking point as wantaway Frenchman tweets after criticism

The Frenchman came in for criticism from his manager after failing to return to Manchester United’s US training camp

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 August, 2018, 5:51pm

How do Manchester United solve the problem that is Anthony Martial? He’s an incredibly talented 22-year-old bought for big money and with two years left on his contract. But he wants to leave and has long wanted to do so. His relationship with Jose Mourinho has been the most strained of any United player and he started only 18 league matches last season, missing out on a place in France’s successful World Cup squad as he fell behind new signing Alexis Sanchez in the selection order.

Yet United don’t want to sell Martial, especially to a rival club who could afford him in England. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are interested in him.

If he doesn’t leave, the real pressure to sell him and recoup some of the £36 million that they paid Monaco for would come in a year’s time when he’ll have a year left on his contract. Otherwise he can do as Marouanne Fellaini did and let his contract run down and potentially leave for free.

Martial cuts an unhappy figure, yet when I spoke to him last week in Santa Clara about something not related to his future, he was all smiles, laughing with his teammates. Similarly, when you speak to people who know him on the streets of Les Ulis on the Parisian periphery where he grew up, they speak of a happy, popular person.

Martial returned to Europe from United’s pre-season tour of America for the birth of his second child, Swan. United had no problem with this and Jose Mourinho is well aware of the importance of family. One rare moment of happiness on the US tour saw Mourinho congratulate his own daughter on her graduation. Mourinho is happy to let his family settle in London since he’s uprooted them numerous times as they’ve followed him around Europe. He’s not inhumane or from that breed of former managers who regretted not watching their children grow up because they were so immersed in their work.

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Mourinho is modern in this respect, when many in football are not. Top footballers may be incredibly well remunerated, but they don’t have the same paternity leave as other sectors of society. Footballers’ wives get incredibly frustrated that they’re left to fend for themselves around times of childbirth and family crises.

Another former United striker, Andy Cole, missed the birth of his son Devante because he had to prepare for a game.

“I should have been there,” he said later. “United were pushing for the league and I was told that I was needed to play against Southampton so my wife was induced to bring the birth forward but it didn’t work. We won the game but I missed the birth of my first child which is my biggest regret.”

Martial’s problem came with communication and when two parties don’t get on, they’re hardly likely to communicate as well as they could. United didn’t know when he was coming back and hoped that he would return for the final game of the US pre-season tour in Miami.

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Under pressure after veiled criticism from his manager who said he didn’t know when that was, Martial tweeted: “Thank you to everyone for your messages. My little Swan is good, for the mother it was more difficult but thanks to God she is better now. I’m sorry, but family always comes first. Back in Manchester tomorrow.”

There’s a phoney war going on. Martial is unlikely to ask to leave publicly, like Wayne Rooney did in 2013 or David de Gea in 2015. It would isolate him from fans who would quickly turn on him. By saying nothing, the player can later deny that they ever wanted to go, as Rooney did. Nobody can prove otherwise and the players are happy for “the media” to be blamed for inaccuracies.

Football fans maybe loyal, but they’re also fickle. On August 6, 2013, when he was set on going it was impossible to find a United fan who would support Rooney. Then, on August 17, around half the fans in the away end at Swansea chanted “Rooney, Rooney” as, stone-faced, he warmed up. Even he looked surprised. Rooney would become United’s best player for most of that season, showing there can be a complete U-turn.

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Though a time of personal joy, the timing isn’t ideal for United or professionally for Martial, whose basic pay is £62,000 a week. He will return having missed eight days of pre-season training. After the final game of the five match pre-season US tour, Mourinho referred a question about Martial to United’s press officer, who didn’t answer.

Martial knows he could earn more and play more elsewhere. United, who are concerned about the lack of width in their team and have struggled to get players in, have no intention of selling him without a replacement. With a week until the transfer window closes for Premier League clubs to buy players, time is running out. It’s a shame that the career of a player who has bonus clauses for winning the Ballon D’or in his contract has come to this.

Read more from Andy Mitten here