Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has backed Anthony Martial to make a positive impact this season after the French forward failed to earn his trust last term.
United’s top scorer in his first season, Martial was used only sparingly in Mourinho’s maiden campaign, but came off the bench to score in last weekend’s 4-0 win over West Ham United.
United’s reported interest in Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic now appears dead in the water, but Mourinho suggested he had been looking to sign a wing-back, rather than a winger to compete with Martial.
“I have faith in him,” Mourinho told reporters ahead of Saturday’s trip to Swansea City. “Probably the player I was looking for wasn’t a pure winger, because I have pure wingers.
“Probably the player I was looking for was a player that allows me to play with three at the back and have a wing-back.
“As a pure attacking player, Anthony is a good player. I believe he’s one of the players who is going to have a better season this season than the previous season.
“I look at some of my players and I’m sure that some of them will be better this season than they were last season, and Anthony is that for sure.”
France international Martial, 21, scored 17 goals in all competitions following his 2015 move from Monaco, but found the net only four times in 18 league starts last season.
Mourinho believes he can benefit from two important factors: playing alongside new striker Romelu Lukaku and getting a taste of Champions League football, after United’s qualification for the group phase.
“I think Romelu is a good player to play with,” Mourinho said during a press conference at United’s Carrington training base west of Manchester on Friday.
“OK, a striker lives on numbers and it was because of Romelu’s numbers that we paid so much to have him.
“But a striker is not just numbers. It is the way he plays, the solutions he gives, the way he makes others play. I think he’s a good player to play with.”
– Chelsea ‘probably even stronger’ –
He added: “People like Marcus (Rashford), Martial, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, to have that target man to play with is very good.
“We are in the Champions League, so it is the first time for Rashford to play Champions League. Anthony had a bit with Monaco and with us, I think.
“(Jesse) Lingard a few matches, but not much more than that. Romelu is a first-time. I don’t think he played Champion League with Chelsea and, if it was, it was a couple of matches.
“So I think for them the Champions League can also be a great experience.”
Despite their eye-catching win on the opening Premier League weekend, Mourinho is adamant that his team should not be considered the favourites to win the title.
Instead, he believes that his former club Chelsea, the defending champions, are the team to beat.
That is despite suggestions Antonio Conte’s side have not strengthened during a transfer window that saw them lose midfielder Nemanja Matic to United.
“When people say, for example, Chelsea lost an important midfield player, if you lose one but you buy (Tiemoue) Bakayoko and (Danny) Drinkwater, for example, what’s the problem?” said Mourinho.
Chelsea signed Bakayoko from Monaco in a £40 million ($51.4 million, 43.8 million euros) deal and have been linked with Leicester City man Drinkwater.
“The problem is when you sell and you don’t buy,” Mourinho added. “When you sell and you keep buying, what’s the problem? You are probably even stronger.”