Anthony Martial was blasted for his role in Sheffield United’s winning goal against Manchester United on Wednesday night.
The forward was picked out by Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport for his role in the sloppy goal that United conceded as failed to properly sprint back in the build-up to the winner after losing the ball.
Martial started the game as United’s main striker but shifted to the wing after Edinson Cavani came on to replace Mason Greenwood in attack.
Yet the way he ambled back in Wednesday’s defeat may once again raise questions of where his best position is.
Speaking on Sky Sports as a pundit before he became Spurs boss, Mourinho aimed a dig at Martial, arguing that the Frenchman often plays as a main striker due to his lack of work rate in tracking back on the wing.
He said: “I know that Martial likes to play as No. 9 sometimes, I think for the right reasons, sometimes I think for the wrong reasons, but I know he likes to play as a No. 9.
“Of course, Rashford does too but he adapts perfectly on the left side because he has more responsibility and a high work rate, coping with the progression of a possible full-back.
“So if they play with Martial as a striker and Rashford on the left, I wouldn’t be surprised.
“But at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the opposite situation and they create a midfield where they give a certain balance where the midfield player on the left side can cover that progression and give some freedom to the left winger.”
Interestingly, Ferdinand also picked out Nemanja Matic as not having done enough to support Martial in the situation, perhaps further backing Mourinho’s argument.
In contrast, Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, backed Martial to play as a winger instead of a main striker.
He said: “I like him on the wing, I don’t believe he is an out-and-out goalscorer like Ruud van Nistelrooy.
“In the future, he might change, he certainly has the ability, but at the moment I see him as a wing player.
“He has had an excellent first season in England and he can only get better with age and experience.
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Manchester United lost 2-1 to Sheffield United as they passed up an opportunity to return to the top of the Premier League table.
There’s no time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players to feel sorry for themselves, though, with a game against Arsenal at the Emirates to come on Saturday.
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“He can improve further, I can see things in his game that he can work on, but the best way to improve is to play at a higher level and that is what he is doing.”
Yet there is an argument that Van Gaal was willing to look past Martial’s defensive flaws.
Speaking to the Athletic three months ago, former United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin revealed that Martial tended to ignore Van Gaal’s instructions when playing on the wing.
He said: “The most successful players were the young ones who were not bothered by confidence — Rashford, Martial.
“They played with freedom and because Martial couldn’t understand what the manager was telling him, he just played with freedom anyway.”