London (AFP) – Anthony Martial can play his way into Manchester United’s starting XI with a convincing performance against Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday, manager Jose Mourinho has said.
Martial was left out of the squad for last weekend’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Stoke City and Thursday’s League Cup game at Hull City, which saw United reach the final despite a 2-1 defeat.
Mourinho has warned the French forward he faces strong competition from Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and has challenged him to state his case for a first-team place against Wigan.
Asked how Martial had reacted to being left out at Hull, Mourinho told reporters: “I don’t know. I don’t speak with the players about how they take it.
“He will play Sunday and if Sunday he plays magnificent, he will play against Hull City the next match. It’s simple.”
Martial, 21, was United’s top scorer last season with 17 goals in all competitions, but he has found the net only six times this season, with just two of those goals coming in the Premier League.
After Sunday’s fourth-round meeting with Wigan, United’s jam-packed February begins with a home game against Hull in the league on Wednesday.
The month will also feature a two-legged Europa League last 32 tie against Saint-Etienne, league games against Leicester City and Watford and the League Cup final against Southampton on February 26.
Mourinho has pledged to shake up his team for the visit of second-tier Wigan and confirmed that Martial, second-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero and left-back Luke Shaw will all start.
Wigan are fighting to avoid relegation from the Championship, but Mourinho expects a scrap against a team managed by Warren Joyce, who left his role as United’s Under-21 coach to join them in November.
– ‘Special motivation’ –
“I worked at the club with him just a few months, but it was enough to know a very nice man, a very passionate football man,” Mourinho said after Thursday’s match at Hull.
“He took the risk, he accepted the challenge, he left a good situation in the club to try to go to what we call ‘men’s football’.
“For sure he’ll come with a very aggressive team, very well organised defensively. Also emotional, like the manager is also emotional.
“We know the difficulty to play against Championship teams. We’ve played already Wigan in pre-season. Now they are with Warren.
“He knows us well. He will obviously come with special motivation to play against his old club. They will bring lots of fans too.
“So the match is going to be difficult and we obviously have to play with a very good team.”
United’s progress to the League Cup final means their derby match at Manchester City, scheduled for the same weekend, will have to be rearranged.
But while Mourinho is keenly conscious of the challenges United’s busy schedule poses, he knows it also represents evidence the team are thriving.
“It’s very difficult. Now we have a problem already, which is the fact that we don’t play Manchester City when we should,” he said.
“And then we play Europa League. It’s not like the Champions League, with four fixtures for two matches. In the Europa League’s case, if you progress, there are four fixtures for four matches.
“The week before the (League Cup) final, Southampton, we will play at Saint-Etienne the second leg of the Europa League. If we progress in the FA Cup, another round will come.
“It’s really difficult for us. But if it’s difficult, it’s for good reasons and the good reasons are we progress in competitions.”
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