Manchester Evening News

£50M DOWN THE DRAIN, TONY MARTIAL SCORNED AGAIN Vitek, 20, agrees loan deal to Stanley

- By SAMUEL LUCKHURST By RICHARD FAY

ANTHONY Martial will be missing for 10 weeks. Plenty of United supporters would argue he has been missing all season.

The Parisian who once sizzled is fizzling out. Martial may never pull on the United shirt again now he is recovering from groin surgery.

Should Martial return on schedule, his overall lay-off will have totalled 16 weeks. He could be available for the midweek fixture away to Chelsea in early April and the visit of Liverpool at the weekend.

Martial has scored at Stamford Bridge three times and immediatel­y bonded with the Stretford End with that uproarious debut goal against Liverpool in September 2015. More recently, he emerged at half-time to influence the outcome of last season’s uplifting first win under Erik ten Hag.

Yet Martial is not a player United would want on their side in a run-in.

He was injured for almost the entirety of the summer transfer window and was unsellable. He has been unwell and injured for the entirety of this transfer window and is unsellable. He has become the Winston Bogarde of United.

United should pay up Martial’s contract so he can clear out his locker. They showed their duty of care to him when he received a generous five-and-a-half year contract in January 2019. Martial’s salary would comfortabl­y cover any medical bills.

The 28-year-old was absent for 34 of United’s 62 games last season and he missed 12 of the 30 matches in 2021-22 before he was loaned to Sevilla. He was unavailabl­e for the last 14 matches of 2020-21 with a knee injury.

“Anthony has been in Manchester for nine seasons and if he was not a great profession­al, he wouldn’t have been at the club for so long,” Martial’s agent Philippe Lamboley said last week.

Lamboley undermined Rangnick and Jose Mourinho before him. Martial never intervened.

It must have slipped Lamboley’s mind that Ralf Rangnick accused Martial of refusing to play against Aston Villa in January 2022. Martial publicly disputed Rangnick’s version of events. That is not great profession­alism. That is a culture cultivated by Ed Woodward, a man so in thrall to Martial he brazenly overruled Jose Mourinho.

A No.9 in seven of his nine seasons with United, Martial has averaged 10 goals per season. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, he has scraped a meagre 19 goals. Erling Haaland, Martial’s opposite number at City, hit that mark in his 12th game for the club.

Martial’s seasonal goalscorin­g stats read: 17, 8, 11, 12, 23, 7, 1, 9, 2. £50million down the drain, Tony Martial scorned again. He has never lived up to his number and his number is up. Someone who worked with him at United messaged in December, “Martial still there making money.”

If the last sight of Martial in United colours is that of supporters cheering his substituti­on, it is a fitting epitaph. Paul Pogba was last seen at Old Trafford cupping his ear to matchgoers chanting, “f*** off Pogba”. Some also celebrated his removal.

The French connection were the poster boys of the player power era

United should pay up Martial’s contract so he can clear his locker

Woodward enabled at United.

Both will end up being released. Of all the inadvisabl­e contracts United have doled out, Martial’s renewal is one of the most egregious.

Two good seasons in nine is a pitiful return. Martial’s best was his first. He stirred the soul in a largely soulless 2015-16, slotting in the first Fergie Time winner of the post-Ferguson era against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final.

That moment remains this correspond­ent’s highlight covering United. A first FA Cup final in nine years and the prospectiv­e end of a trophy drought fuelled the ecstatic celebratio­ns as grown men clambered over each other to embrace Martial. He was enveloped by them.

A few not near enough stormed the press box and merrily sang ‘Tony Martial came from France.’

Martial was the literal Golden Boy that season, the recipient of the annual Tuttosport award. Then Zlatan Ibrahimovi­c took his number and Martial showed his true colours. He crumbled amid competitio­n.

At the start of Mourinho’s first season, a senior figure at United said Martial’s ‘head was in the clouds.’ He had separated from the mother of his firstborn daughter, who then conducted a kiss-and-tell with a British tabloid.

Romelu Lukaku, Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rasmus Hojlund were other strikers who arrived to don the red shirt and Martial waved the white flag. Ironically, when the going got tough for Mourinho, Martial got going and embarked on career-best form.

Mourinho delighted as much in Martial’s attacking at Stamford Bridge in October 2018 as his defending.

Martial scored two goals but he earned a celebrator­y pat on

Anthony Martial will be out for 10 weeks following surgery the back from his manager for tracking back. Mourinho was so proud he stormed onto the pitch.

That was proof Martial could complement aptitude with attitude. United were 1-0 down that day when Mourinho shouted an instructio­n to Martial, who turned and nodded.

He scored twice. Message received.

Such character was scant.

It is worth recalling the timeline of Martial’s last contract: Two hours after United triggered the one-year extension on December 17, 2018, Lamboley told RMC in France: “I am very pessimisti­c about discussion­s going positively. They’ve already made several offers that come nowhere near to what we expect.”

At 9.45am the next morning, Mourinho was sacked. Fortyfour days later, the agency that represents Martial leaked news of his fresh deal.

He will not be missed.

UNITED have agreed to send Radek Vitek on loan to League Two side Accrington Stanley for the remainder of the season.

The 20-year-old has agreed to a straight loan deal without the option to make it permanent and will become the ninth youngster to depart the club on loan this month.

M.E.N. Sport understand­s United and Accrington are both hopeful of having the deal signed off before the weekend so that he can be in the squad to face Forest Green Rovers tomorrow afternoon.

Vitek is at an awkward crossroads in his career where he is not getting regular game time at youth level but is way down the pecking order at the senior level.

He has made two appearance­s as the backup option for the Under-21s this season and has trained regularly as part of the first team set-up at Carrington.

Vitek has yet to make his senior debut.

But he has been included in three senior matchday squads this season, including trips to face both Bayern Munich and Tottenham early on in the campaign.

The Czech youngster was ever present when United U18s won the FA Youth Cup two years ago, starring in the same side as Kobbie Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho.

He could make his Accrington debut against fellow United youngster Maxi Oyedele, who joined League Two side Forest Green on loan earlier this month.

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Samuel Luckhurst
Anthony Martial with United boss Erik ten Hag Samuel Luckhurst
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