Mour­inho tells Mar­tial to ig­nore his agent

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Ed­wards and John Percy

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.

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