Mourinho tells Martial to ignore his agent
Jose Mourinho has slammed Anthony Martial’s agent for trying to unsettle the France international at Manchester United and told the striker to start listening to him rather than his adviser.
Martial scored United’s equaliser in the 2-1 win over Middlesbrough and enjoyed one of his best games under Mourinho. His manager was pleased with the performance and the goal but, when asked about the former Monaco striker, he went on the offensive over his agent, Philippe Lamboley.
Lamboley had told reporters in France that his client was keen to look at the option of signing for Seville in January because he was not guaranteed first-team football at United.
That drew a stinging response from Mourinho, who said: “He played, he scored, he fought. I know he’s a top talent, but he needs to listen to me, not his agent. He needs to listen to me in training, where I try to improve the players.
“I knew that [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan was a top talent and I was not playing him. Every feedback I give to players, I give to improve them. Almost every day, I was having Mkhitaryan’s agent calling me and saying, ‘Mkhitaryan with you, will be better’.
“And with Martial, every day I read the newspaper: Martial goes to Seville, Martial goes on loan, he’s not happy.”
Mourinho also expressed his sympathy for Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he was harshly denied a goal against Middlesbrough that would have meant he ended 2016 as the joint top goalscorer in Europe alongside Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. “I’m sad for him because it was a beautiful goal.”
Tony Pulis, the West Bromwich Albion manager, will return with a second offer worth £20 million for United outcast Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin has also been targeted by Everton but Pulis will be backed by his board to make another offer for the France international.
Schneiderlin, 27, was signed from Southampton for an initial £24million in July 2015 but has fallen out favour under Louis van Gaal and then Mourinho. Albion will listen to offers for Jonas Olsson, while Callum McManaman has already joined Sheffield Wednesday on loan for the rest of the season.
If anyone still needed to be convinced that Jose Mourinho was the right manager for Manchester United, this dramatic victory might well have been the moment the doubts disappeared.
As the crowd roared and his name filled the air, it felt like United supporters were falling in love with their Portuguese manager and he was starting to dispel that myth about him losing his magic touch.
If Mourinho is back, United are back too, back to winning ways, back to pulling off dramatic comebacks, back to winning games late and back in Champions League contention. They are surely too far behind a sensational Chelsea to mount a late title charge, but for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired 3½ years ago, a new year begins with optimism and excitement, rather than fear and foreboding.
It was United’s fifth successive league win and means Mourinho’s side are level on points with Tottenham, and just one behind Arsenal in fourth, albeit having played a game more than the London clubs. Chelsea may have scorched clear at the top of the table with 13 successive wins, but in the background, United have won six on the spin in all competitions and travel to West Ham tomorrow night in the highest of spirits.
The fact this victory came in such dramatic style will help gain even more momentum, as a nauseating sense of frustration was replaced by a euphoric sense of wellbeing. “We managed to do something amazing, to bring the fans on to the pitch with us,” said Mourinho. “We had 70,000 people with us, it was too much for a very good team who were very well organised.
“It was phenomenal. We played so well, it was a very good way to end the year. It was Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthday today and that was a fitting tribute to him. That is the way his team played and that is how I want my team to play. I’m very happy with the way we are playing, you look at us today, and we are not afraid, we are always positive.”
After Middlesbrough had taken a shock second-half lead through Grant Leadbitter, United scored twice, in the 85th and the 86th minutes, through Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba. It was a stunning finale, not just because of the timing of the goals, but because United Zlatan Ibrahimovic was denied the chance to end the year as the top scorer in all European leagues as his effort was disallowed for a high boot. It left him with 50 goals in 2016, one short of Lionel Messi.
had spent the previous 85 minutes wasting even better opportunities than the ones they converted. They dominated possession, territory and opportunities, but although Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a goal controversially chalked off in the first half, and both Martial and Pogba hit the post, it had appeared to be heading towards a familiar tale of what might have been for Mourinho. This time their luck changed.
The Boro manager, Aitor Karanka, had few complaints about the defeat. “I’ve told the players, that despite the result, their performance against a top team was really good,” said Mourinho’s former assistant at Real Madrid. “If we play like that, we will stay in the Premier League. We are becoming a really consistent team. We will forget the result and remember the performance.”
Middlesbrough should have taken the lead with their first attack. With Adama Traoré charging forward on the counter attack, United only had Chris Smalling standing in his way, while the former Barcelona player had Adam Forshaw on one side and Stewart Downing on the other. He ignored them both and then sliced a shot tamely wide.
Mourinho’s men had started sluggishly, but began to push Boro back into their own half. The pressure built and Pogba was unfortunate his overhead kick came back off the post.
United continued to turn the key, but the engine spluttered until Henrikh Mkhitaryan provided the spark, hitting a shot which Víctor Valdés just about held on to and then dragging one just wide. Martial crashed a rocket against the post and when Ibrahimovic karatekicked the ball into the net, referee Lee Mason decided it was dangerous play, even though his foot was nowhere near Valdés and he was on the floor when the goalkeeper jumped into him.
Having suffered a series of frustrating home draws in the autumn, this game brought back bad memories as United began the second half with Ibrahimovic firing against the legs of Valdés. United continued to attack, Boro continued to defend superbly and then landed a sucker punch. Calum Chambers’s cross was headed down by Álvaro Negredo and the unmarked Leadbitter finished with aplomb. It was the Middlesbrough captain’s first start of the season because of injury.
Ibrahimovic was denied by an excellent save from Valdés, rushing off his line, and then Martial shot straight at the former Barcelona goalkeeper. The France international finally remembered to put the ball either side of Valdés, though, running on to a lovely header into his path from Ibrahimovic before Pogba planted a perfect header into the top corner.