Man Utd player Anthony Martial has been encouraged by Jose Mourinho of late as he adopts a softer approach with his players.
What was the moment when it clicked for Jose Mourinho and Anthony Martial?
Was it the United boss’ belated decision to drop the out of form Alexis Sanchez and start Martial in his favoured role on the left wing at the London Stadium in September?
Or after Martial’s double against Chelsea when Mourinho crossed the touchline to give his forward a big part on the back? 0r how Martial tracked back in the dying stages at home to Everton?
In truth, it has been a gradual turnaround since Martial became the first United player to ever be fined by Mourinho after he failed to report back for the club’s pre-season tour following the birth of his son, Swan, in Paris.
At that stage, it was hard to see Martial prospering under Mourinho – even if he stayed at the club beyond August 31. Privately, the United boss has never stopped players leaving if they want to go and Martial’s agent, Philippe Lamboley, had already made his feelings very clear on that.
But Martial has been at the heart of what has been good about United of late – five goals in his last six games – and Mourinho has adopted a softer approach with the Frenchman. Even when things are not necessarily going to plan.
Take midway through the first-half against City, for example. Swarmed by blue shirts, and under pressure, Marital passed the ball out of play to give Pep Guardiola’s side an easy throw-in.
The 22-year-old’s head dropped in frustration as the City fans jeered him. Mourinho immediately sprang out of his seat – not to castigate the Frenchman but to applaud him and tell him to keep going. “It’s OK!” he said, calmly, as United tried to gain a foothold in the game.
Martial has been one of the more complex minds Mourinho has struggled to get through to during his time at United. Those age-old man management methods that worked wonders with a previous generation do not always get a response from millennials.
“For me what’s more difficult [as a manager] is the fragile mentality,” he said last year when discussing managing modern players.
“I think it’s probably my weakness as a manager, that it’s difficult for me to understand people with a different mentality to what I have. It’s difficult to understand so it takes me time to understand and sometimes I’m not able to feel attracted again [to the player].
“Sometimes I ask my assistants to help me on that because maybe they have a different profile to me.”
Since Rui Faria’s departure – that was one of the assistant’s many roles at the club – Mourinho has not shied away from literally putting his arm around his players or praising them in public.
The three players who have really stood out this season – Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Martial – have all benefited in recent weeks after previously having their moments with Mourinho.
That approach could yet prove crucial to United’s season.
SOURCE: MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS