Erik ten Hag admits that relying on Anthony Martial is ‘DIFFICULT’ due to his fitness issues
Erik ten Hag wants Anthony Martial to stay in his Manchester United squad next season, but admits his fitness issues make it difficult to rely on him.
The 27-year-old French striker is set to make his first league start since mid-January against Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
He has only played 77 minutes of league football in the three months since his last start, a win over Manchester City, and has only started eight Premier League games in just over two years.
Due to Marcus Rashford’s groin injury, Martial made an impressive comeback in Thursday’s Europa League draw with Sevilla and is expected to start again at the City Ground.
While ten Hag praised Martial’s abilities, he admitted it was difficult to predict whether he could be relied on to make a long-term impact with his United squad.
‘Look, it’s difficult to say because history says otherwise,’ ten Hag said.
‘I want him to be because I think he’s a great player with the qualities to play in top football, and when he’s fit, our team plays better.
‘I believe he can play up front. He’s best at center-forward in my opinion, but he can also play wide.’
Martial’s contract expires at the end of next season, but United have the option of adding a year to it, and ten Hag has stated his desire to keep him at least through next season.
‘From my perspective, yes,’ said ten Hag.
Due to injuries to Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, club captain Harry Maguire is almost certain to start today – for only the seventh time in the league this season.
Maguire is expected to take the armband from regular stand-in Bruno Fernandes against Forest, but ten Hag is looking for leadership from all over the field, especially after they surrendered a two-goal lead to Sevilla in midweek.
‘A team requires more leaders; you require a group of leaders,’ he explained.
‘Those are two, but we have more, Rapha Varane, Casemiro, David de Gea, and Licha Martinez, who has developed really well in that area. We’ve got more.
‘They have to understand that a game is longer than 95 minutes, and yes, we still have a long way to go.
‘I’m well aware of it. The team must be aware. In such circumstances, we require leaders.
‘I’ve seen it in a lot of games. We have the passion and desire to win tough games, but we didn’t do so against Sevilla.
‘We are human and can make mistakes, but we must avoid them. Certain players must now step forward to lead the team and set the standard.’