Sol­sk­jaer: Ma­tur­ing Mar­tial now ob­sessed with scor­ing

United manager backs striker in new No 9 role Rash­ford’s in­jury ‘not down to goal knee slide’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By James Ducker

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer is con­vinced that a hap­pier, hun­grier An­thony Mar­tial is be­com­ing “ob­sessed” with scor­ing goals – after the Manch­ester United striker was crit­i­cised in the past for “not look­ing both­ered if he scores”.

Paul Sc­holes, the for­mer United mid­fielder, has claimed pre­vi­ously that he saw no signs of Mar­tial “liv­ing for goals” like top cen­tre­for­wards should and that the France striker did not seem to care if he missed chances.

But Sol­sk­jaer be­lieves Mar­tial is rev­el­ling in his new role as a No9 after spend­ing most of his United ca­reer play­ing wide and was en­cour­aged to hear the player say in an in­ter­view this week that it was

“all about scor­ing goals for me now”. Ahead of this lunchtime’s game at Bournemout­h, the United manager said: “I don’t think he has had a long run of games as a No9 since he played many years ago as a boy. Now he is ma­tur­ing, he is al­most 24, and I saw his in­ter­view the other day. You have to be ob­sessed with scor­ing goals as a No9 and he is look­ing more and more like a player who wants to score goals and not just show his tricks.

“For me he has ma­tured a lot in his be­hav­iour on the train­ing ground as well. I believe we will see the best of him in the next few years.”

Although Mar­tial’s sea­son has been dis­rupted by a thigh in­jury that kept him out for al­most eight weeks, the French­man has four goals in seven games this term and im­pressed in at­tack along­side Mar­cus Rash­ford in the 3-1 win at Nor­wich last Sun­day. Mar­tial’s at­ti­tude has also been ques­tioned at times and Sol­sk­jaer re­buked the striker in the dress­ing room for a lame warmup be­fore the game against Chelsea at Old Traf­ford in April. But the manager be­lieves there has been a sea change in at­ti­tude from Mar­tial since the sum­mer. “He looks hap­pier,” he said. “He is an in­fec­tious boy, his smile and sense of hu­mour, you can see he is happy here and that rubs off on ev­ery­one. It’s a miles bet­ter group we have now – the ca­ma­raderie, at­ti­tude, the self­less­ness, the hu­mil­ity.”

Rash­ford, Harry Maguire and Vic­tor Lin­de­lof have been as­sessed after pick­ing up knocks in Wed­nes­day’s 2-1 Carabao Cup win at Chelsea. But Sol­sk­jaer has de­nied that Rash­ford in­curred his knee prob­lem while slid­ing to cel­e­brate his won­der free-kick, de­spite gri­mac­ing and be­ing sub­sti­tuted shortly after it. “Not the knee slide I think – it was a tackle,” Sol­sk­jaer said.

Asked if he might ban knee-slide cel­e­bra­tions, Sol­sk­jaer said: “No, they can do what­ever they want when they score goals. It might be the last one you score.”

Mean­while, United will fly around 150 fans, who had paid for travel to Kaza­khstan with the now de­funct Thomas Cook, for free to the Europa League tie with As­tana.

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