Jose Mourinho has explained why Anthony Martial featured from the start for Manchester United during their 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Thursday.
The Frenchman, following his ‘Man of the Match’ performance against Burnley on Sunday, featured on the left hand side as at the Ethiad as Marcus Rashford came back into the side and gave Pablo Zabaleta some early problems with his raw pace.
He was forced to feature as an impromptu left-back alongside Matteo Darmian, who struggled to deal with Raheem Sterling all evening, for large parts of the second half and came off for Jesse Lingard with ten minutes left.
Mourinho, speaking after the game, pointed towards the 20-year-old’s freshness as one of the main reasons behind his inclusion on Thursday night.
“He had a good performance [against Burnley],” he said. “He hasn’t had the accumulation of matches. He’s not played many matches during the season especially 90 minutes.
“So he has to be in a good condition. [And] of course we want Martial and Rashford both fresh in this match to try and give us solutions.”
This game will not live long in Martial’s memory – or in anybody’s, for that matter. Most of his attention was directed towards bolstering Man United’s defensive shape as the hosts mounted an onslaught in the second half. You could tell that he wasn’t enjoying himself; this side of the game is both alien and indeed unrewarding to a player known for his rip-roaring energy pouring forward, as opposed to grit and organisation.
But it was a performance that would have further encouraged Mourinho following his dedicated display against Burnley. The Frenchman threw himself into everything and kept his cool when holding the ball in dangerous areas, playing his part in what was a committed – but albeit impotent – display at the Ethiad.