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10th Sep 2022

Anthony Martial hits out at former bosses Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Simon Lloyd

Martial has lifted the lid on life under his two former managers

Anthony Martial has hit out at former Manchester United managers Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, criticising how they handled him during their time in charge at Old Trafford.

Martial had arrived at United in the early weeks of the 2015/16 season after being signed from Monaco by Louis van Gaal. Though he enjoyed playing for Van Gaal, the Dutchman’s failure to secure Champions League football that same season saw him dismissed the day after United had won the 2016 FA Cup final against Crystal Palace.

Mourinho was later named as his replacement, bringing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Manchester as one of his first signings. Ibrahimovic’s arrival would indirectly lead to Mourinho’s strained relationship with Martial.

Having been given the number nine jersey in his debut season with United, Martial had no intentions of giving the number up – even though Mourinho had attempted to persuade him to take the number 11 shirt. Despite making it clear he wanted to keep his number, Martial discovered on his return to the club that he had been designated the 11 shirt, with the nine allocated to Ibrahimovic.

Martial on shirt number dispute

“It started with the story of the shirt number,” Martial told France Football (via the Daily Mail). “During the summer, he [Mourinho] sends me a message to ask me if I want to take 11, explaining to me that it’s great because it was worn by the legend Ryan Giggs.

“I tell him that I have the greatest respect for Giggs, but that I prefer to keep my number 9. When I return to the club, I see my jersey with the number 11. The story did not start well! He disrespected me, straight up.”

From that moment onwards, the pair’s relationship was difficult.

“He was talking about me in the press,” Martial continued. “He likes these games, but he also knows who he is doing it with. He knows that I am 20 years old then and that if I say something, it is I who will be the young person who lacks respect.”

Things didn’t improve between them during Mourinho’s second season at the club, when the arrival of Alexis Sanchez forced Martial down the pecking order. As a result, Martial missed out on a place in Didier Deschamps’ World Cup squad for 2018 and had to watch on from afar as his international colleagues won the tournament.

“The second season [at United], I was the team’s top scorer in the first part of the season, he brought in Alexis Sanchez and I hardly played anymore. It cost me dearly. I should have been there [at the 2018 World Cup].”

martial mourinho solskjaer

Solskjaer was ‘almost treacherous’

Mourinho eventually left the club and was replaced by Solskjaer, who, despite giving him his old number nine shirt back, Martial accused of refusing to defend his substandard performances despite knowing he was playing through an injury.

“People don’t know it, but I couldn’t accelerate during the four months following the Covid season,” he said. “The coach tells me he needs me, so I play. But, given my game, if I can’t accelerate, it becomes very complicated all the same.

“And I got set on fire [criticised by supporters]… the coach never bothered to tell the media [about the media].

“I took it very badly, I had a feeling of injustice, you are asked to sacrifice yourself for the team and behind the scenes you are dismissed.

“For me, it’s almost treachery. That’s all I hate. I can be blamed, but not for being fake.”

Martial endured a nightmarish campaign last season, where a loan spell with Sevilla failed to improve his form.

Though many anticipated he would leave United on a permanent basis this summer, he enjoyed an impressive preseason under Erik ten Hag. Had it not been for an injury, he was widely expected to start the season for United.

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