Anthony Martial is not the first Manchester United player to get stuck with the supersub tag and he won’t be the last. The Frenchman has yet to score as a starter in the Premier League this season but has netted four times in seven appearances coming off the bench, so it is easy to see why Jose Mourinho has been happy enough keeping the 21-year-old in reserve so far.
With Marcus Rashford winning further plaudits for his performances in the same left-sided attacking role in which Martial has excelled since arriving at Old Trafford, circumstance has ensured that the former Monaco youngster has been left feeding off scraps in the first three months of the campaign.
But Martial admitted during the international break that he is not entirely happy in the role of substitute, saying that – like any hungry young player – he would much prefer to be starting games regularly.
Martial is sure, though, that if he continues to influence games regularly then he will be given more game time by Mourinho in the coming weeks.
“I have faith in my qualities, and I think the manager has confidence in me too. So it’s up to me to continue putting in good performances, and if I do that I think I’ll play a bit more.
“We all prefer to play even if at United when I come off the bench, I make a difference. I prefer to start games and show what I’m capable of. When you score and you’re a forward, you’re happy. It’s going well as even though I’m a substitute, I play often.”
Things could get more complicated for Martial though, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return from injury further congesting United’s attacking stocks. While the Swede is not a direct competitor for a position, his availability could result in fewer chances for Rashford to play in the central striking role and thus leave the young England star going up against Martial for a starting spot even when it comes to less-meaningful domestic cup fixtures.
The option of using both Martial and Rashford at the same time is one which Mourinho has rarely exercised. Louis van Gaal started the pair together in 15 of the final 18 games of his United reign, but his successor has gone with them both only 11 times in his 82 matches in charge. His instinct is clearly that his side is better starting one or the other and that has brought about a battle for a single shirt.
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