Jose Mourinho has told Anthony Martial he needs to follow the example of teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan and work harder to improve to earn his place in Manchester United’s starting XI.
Martial, 21, has found the net just once in 10 Premier League appearances at United this season and has flitted in and out of Mourinho’s first-choice side.
Mkhitaryan, 27, found himself completely out of the first-team picture at Old Trafford following his summer move from Borussia Dortmund, making just one Premier League start in the first three months of the season.
However, the Armenia international has since forced his way into Mourinho’s thinking, earned the praise of his boss, and provided the example for Martial to follow.
“Mkhitaryan was completely open and completely understood the difference between me and others coaches he has had. The difference between the demands of the Premier League and the Ukrainian league or even the Bundesliga, a completely different philosophy of play,” Mourinho told SFR Sport.
“He worked a lot without playing, but he worked a lot to try and reach the level. By surprise, he played a couple of matches when nobody was expecting, and he was named man of the match. He was phenomenal and people realised that the time we spent outside was a good time for him to improve him as a player.
“I think Anthony is very very young, people forget, and last season Manchester United played completely differently to how we do today. He was basically playing up front, the team had lots of passive ball possession, just waiting to put it into space for Anthony to go and score a goal.
“This season is more difficult, he needs a little bit of time to improve.”
Mourinho’s own arrival at United has been far from the smooth ride many might have expected. The former Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss struggled to get his team performing consistently.
While world record signing Paul Pogba and the high-profile Zlatan Ibrahimovic drew some of the media fire, Mourinho was inevitably targeted.
“The press is the press. Either you live separated from the press, or like I try to do, you understand their jobs. The press needs headlines, and normality doesn’t give you headlines,” said Mourinho, who headed into the Boxing Day fixture with Sunderland having won his last three Premier League matches in an eight-game unbeaten run in the top flight.
“Headlines are for the ones that are doing amazingly well or the ones who are not doing well. So it’s normal that in a period when Manchester United are not winning matches and is far from the top in the table. Being Manchester United and what Manchester United is in the world. Being Mourinho, somebody that people demand a lot of, I think that’s normal.”