Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has launched a staunch defence of Anthony Martial – but admits the misfiring Manchester United striker needs a rest.
Loan signing Odion Ighalo will put pressure on France forward but also can provide the required rest for the former Monaco star, who has scored just two goals in his last nine appearances. He has particularly suffered in the absence of strike partner Marcus Rashford, who is out with a double stress fracture of the back.
Martial has struggled for form, scoring just one goal in his past six appearances across all competitions – against League Two side Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup last month.
The 24-year-old failed to fire for United in Saturday’s goalless Premier League draw at home to Wolves, but Solskjaer backed the Frenchman.
But Solskjaer has offered Martial his backing, saying:
“He’s giving us everything. He’s been asked now to play – I think he’s started the last eight games – in this month, and he’s running probably 20 per cent more than what he did when I came here.
“That shift goes with all the other players as well, by the way. So it’s not just mental robustness and tactical, it’s that physical side we’ve had to work with, because they are making strides.
“But the difference in that, compared to when I came in, the squad weren’t right.”
Martial has come in for heavy criticism from some sections of United’s support, but Solskjaer added:
“Well we’ll give him more support, give him rest when he deserves it.
“If he does have that rest, if he plays a little bit less – because he’s been asked to play too much as well, especially now when Marcus is injured – as a striker, if you don’t just get there that split second, that’s a big, massive difference.
“I’ve praised him, I’ve sat down with him and I’m delighted with him. I know that he’s tired, but he’s never ever dodged a training session. He’s training, he’s available for every game, so I’m delighted with the boy.”
The English Premier League clubs will enjoy the winter break as the season will become more competitive in all the terms. With knockout stages of Europa League lurking around, can Martial find the form?