Anthony Martial’s return to the Manchester United starting XI will have been warmly welcomed by Red Devils supporters.
The Frenchman’s pace and guile offer an extra element to their attack, an element that can’t be expected to come from Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While many pundits have been quick to assign the reason for his call-up to Jose Mourinho’s change of formation (from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1), Ibrahimovic has been quick to load praise on the Frenchman.
He believes that it has been solid determination and work ethic behind the scenes that have earned him a starting berth, more so than tactical chicanery:
“When he plays, he is playing well,” Zlatan told Manutd.com.
“He isn’t a guy that speaks a lot; he is quiet and very professional. He always tries to do his best, trains hard and that is paying off, just like in this match.”
Given his weekend efforts earned him a goal and an assist in a 2-0 victory, it’s hard to argue with those sentiments.
The striker has struggled to work his way into Mourinho’s favourite XI, but the comments concerning his dedication at training will be encouraging for supporters that he certainly has no intention of leaving the club or not working hard to regain his place.
“I think it depends on every individual and what kind of person they are and their approach, how open he is. It is different for every person. He is not going around with his head down. He is training hard, he gives a lot of energy and he wants to play, which is normal.
“When we eat breakfast and he is beside me or if he passes me, we talk. I think everyone talks to everyone. It is not like you try to cheer him up; it is a good atmosphere and the guys are all good guys, very professional.”
A prime benefit of Ibrahimovic’s signing was always set to be his ability to mentor younger strikers at the club such as Martial and Rashford. Clearly the Swede’s experience is rubbing off on his younger teammates, and their new formation may afford them more opportunities to play together.
On his contribution against Watford, the 35-year-old pointed out that:
“I felt he tired in the second half because he was running a lot and he hasn’t played every game, but he played well. He scored a nice goal and it’s good for him and his confidence and the team.
“As the season reaches its climax, one can expect more games to be the reward for Martial’s dedication, which will no doubt lead to more sterling performances such as Saturday’s fare.”
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena