Jose Mourinho encourages Anthony Martial to follow Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s example

by Sam Peoples

Jose Mourinho has encouraged Anthony Martial to follow the example set by Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United this season.

Mkhitaryan begun the season on the periphery of proceedings, suffering a two month absence from the starting XI, before announcing himself in emphatic fashion with a string of superb performances under Mourinho.

Martial, on the other hand, has struggled to replicate the brilliance displayed last season, and has failed to establish himself in Mourinho’s starting XI.

The 53-year-old, speaking after Man United’s 3-1 win over Sunderland in the Premier League, claimed that Martial could draw inspiration from Mkhitaryan’s resurgence at Old Trafford.

“Mkhitaryan was completely open and completely understood the difference between me and others coaches he has had. The difference between the demands of the Premier League and the Ukrainian league or even the Bundesliga, a completely different philosophy of play,” he said.

“He worked a lot without playing, but he worked a lot to try and reach the level. By surprise, he played a couple of matches when nobody was expecting, and he was named man of the match. He was phenomenal and people realised that the time we spent outside was a good time for him to improve him as a player.

“I think Anthony is very very young, people forget, and last season Manchester United played completely differently to how we do today. He was basically playing up front, the team had lots of passive ball possession, just waiting to put it into space for Anthony to go and score a goal.

“This season is more difficult, he needs a little bit of time to improve.”

Blame will always naturally fall on a manager’s soldiers. If a player isn’t impressing, fingers immediately point towards the man in the dugout, rather than the player himself.

There are, of course, moments where this is justified, but the post-Fergie era has witnessed various players – Angel di Maria and Memphis Depay are potent examples – descend into failure not because of managerial inadequacies, but because of their own inability to rectify their predicament.

And it was thought, for a brief moment, that such would also be the case with Mkhitaryan. But the Armenian, much to the delight of supporters, went the other way: he worked tirelessly, always looking to learn and improve, before grabbing his opportunity with both hands when it came. Needless to say, Martial – along with many other footballers going through rough patches – could learn something from the Armenian.

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