Anthony Martial’s seven-year stay at Manchester United has been far from plain sailing – he’s had four permanent managers and not all of them have been keen on him.
He has also been in and out of the France squad over the years but has still managed 30 appearances for Les Bleus – an impressive feat considering his injury history.
Two seasons stand out during Martial’s United career – his first season and the 2019/20 campaign, which he ended as United’s player of the year and top goalscorer.
His third season could have been his best, however. The Frenchman started the 2017/18 season in brilliant form, scoring 11 goals halfway through the season and seemingly secure in his place in the national team under Didier Deschamps.
That all changed when Jose Mourinho brought Alexis Sanchez to the club halfway through that season and Martial was dropped to the bench as a result.
Now, speaking just months prior to the next World Cup, Martial has blamed Mourinho’s decision to sign Sanchez as the reason he missed out on becoming a world champion.
“The second season [at United], I was the team’s top scorer in the first part of the season, [Mourinho] brought in Alexis Sanchez and I hardly played anymore,” Martial is quoted as saying by talkSPORT.
“It’s the season of the World Cup and it cost me dearly, especially since the France team won [the tournament]. I should have been there.”
Mourinho was sacked just five months into the next season and Martial immediately enjoyed an upturn in form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who also rewarded him with a new five-year contract in 2019.
Martial’s best form came under the Norwegian but things would also turn sour with Solskjaer, with Martial now admitting that he didn’t feel like he was protected enough after playing through injury.
“I regularly played injured,” Martial said. “People don’t know it, I couldn’t accelerate during the four months following the COVID-19 season. 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.
“I got [criticised by fans]… the coach never bothered to tell the media. Obviously, I ended up getting injured for good and when I came back, finished, I didn’t play anymore.
“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.”
After impressing in pre-season and doing well in his only appearance so far this season, Erik ten Hag will be desperate to have his first-choice striker back sooner rather than later.
Martial will be hoping to rediscover some of that form which made him a near-permanent fixture in the France squad, having missed all tournaments since Euro 2016 through injury.