Jose Mourinho won’t want to admit it, but Manchester United’s best chance of reaching Europe’s elite next season comes in the form of winning the Europa League.
They will go to within one point of the top four with a win over Chelsea on the weekend, but upcoming trips to Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal could precipitate a tricky – and ultimately fruitless – run in.
A win over Anderlecht on Thursday night, however, would see Mourinho’s men place one foot in the Europa League semi final, taking them to within three wins of Champions League qualification.
This has been far from a perfect season for Martial. The 20-year-old, perhaps somewhat expectedly, has failed to replicate the heroics of his debut campaign and has, at times, looked bereft of confidence under Mourinho.
But his presence on the left-hand side during what promises to be a high-octane encounter could be crucial. He is indeed capable of brandishing one moment of raw brilliance out of nowhere, cutting through a game’s furore with a slice of coolness and craft – exactly what Mourinho will want when chasing an away goal.
Valencia was handed a rest during Man United’s 3-0 win over Sunderland last weekend after being described as “really, really tired” by Mourinho, but the Portuguese confirmed that he would feature against Anderlecht. The Ecuadorian’s inclusion in such a crucial contest feels like a no-brainer; he has been United’s best full back this season by some distance.