Jose Mourinho argued that hard, silent work in training was the quality that persuaded him to give Anthony Martial his chance against Watford.
It was an opportunity the 21-year-old took beautifully in a performance that has revived his Manchester United career. He had scored only two league goals before the 2-0 victory over Watford that extended Manchester United’s unbeaten run to 16 league matches but the way he took the third, beating Huerelho Gomes at the near post, suggests Mourinho may think twice about offloading him in the summer.
“Martial deserves the chance,” said Mourinho. “He has worked harder than ever in the last two weeks and in the way I like – silent but hard. The Anthony Martial I like is the one I saw in the last two weeks of training. I still think he needs a bit of confidence.
“During the game, I kept shouting at him to attack the defenders and go one-on-one. I was going to start with Marcus Rashford but I gave him the chance because Marcus doesn’t need the boost. I gave Anthony the chance and he played well for me.”
Mourinho was delighted with Martial’s performance against Watford.
Although Manchester United have been unbeaten in the league since October, they are still outside the Champions League positions, although the way they played, especially in the first half, gave Mourinho hope they would finish in the top four.
“The first half was not just the best that they have played under me,” he said, preparing another little dig at Arsene Wenger, “If it was under somebody else, you would say it is art. But because it is my team, you would just say it is very good. We pushed them and in the first half it was amazing and then we had to kill the game because Watford is a very good, very strong and very direct.
“The fans got behind the team just before we scored the goal because we were phenomenal. When I got the job, they were saying at Manchester United you need to play the football in a certain way and I agree.”