Jose Mourinho only saw enough from Anthony Martial at the weekend to name the forward on the Manchester United bench against Hull on Wednesday.
An impressive maiden season at Old Trafford has been followed by a frustrating second campaign for the 21-year-old attacker.
Martial has netted six goals in 22 appearances since Jose Mourinho’s arrival and the United boss has not been afraid to leave him out of the squad, never mind the starting lineup, at times.
Questions over the player’s happiness increased after recently being omitted from the league match at Stoke and EFL Cup semifinal second leg against Hull, but the France international got a chance to shine from the outset against Wigan on Sunday.
Martial was moved out wide after an ineffectual first period through the middle in what proved a comfortable FA Cup fourth-round victory, setting up two of the goals in a 4-0 win at Old Trafford.
Mourinho had said playing “magnificently” against the Latics would mean the forward retains his place on Wednesday, but the United boss only saw “enough to be on the bench” against Hull.
“He has to perform better than the others who are competing for the same positions [if he wants to start],” the Portuguese said.
“His position is one where we have lots of options. Do you want me to leave [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan out after being man of the match and playing so well as he did? I can’t.
“The players pick themselves. I am just there to analyse what they do and try to be fair with them. Such a good performance, Mkhitaryan has to play tomorrow. Simple.”
Mkhitaryan is to be joined in the starting lineup against Hull by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, David De Gea and Antonio Valencia.
Eric Bailly, back from the African Nations Cup, is also available for a match that Ashley Young will be involved in after a deadline-day exit was ruled out.
Mourinho said the versatile former England international and captain Wayne Rooney will remain at United for the rest of the campaign as they attempt to juggle a frantic fixture schedule.
United have seven matches across four competitions this month, leading to understandable frustration about fixture congestion.
“In some occasions I don’t think they even think about it,” Mourinho said. “Probably my colleague [Watford manager Walter] Mazzarri tells me to shut up because it is not my problem — maybe he is not unhappy if I speak about it — [but] how is it possible that Watford play Sunday and Tuesday?
“Why not Saturday against Millwall or Wednesday against Arsenal? How is this possible?
“It is such a silly thing that I have to believe the authorities did not even think about it. This happens and happens and happens, lots of decisions that are quite difficult to understand.
“The number of matches, you know there is a risk when you have two cup competitions, Europe and the Premier League.
“You have this risk but with a little bit more respect, a little bit more care, you could find better solutions and solutions that you can understand.”
The scheduling has naturally seen Mourinho switch his starting lineups around, but United have not made so many changes that it has derailed their season.
Southampton, United’s EFL Cup final opponents, were humbled by Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round after making 10 changes, while Liverpool’s nine alterations helped Wolves secure a shock win.
“I don’t do that, even if I am the manager of a club without the same ambitions as us, especially in the FA Cup,” he said. “I did it once, in my first year in England, I understood the mistake. I understood the dimensions of my decision.
“It was a period where we had to play Barcelona in the Champions League and went direct to the League Cup final against Liverpool. In that period we played Newcastle in the FA Cup and I threw it away. I understood the dimension.
“I think the FA Cup deserves such respect that I don’t think we can do that. I don’t do that.
“If I am changing players I do it because I have to give chances to some other players, I have to give a little rest to some others.
“I will change players against Blackburn [in the FA Cup fifth round] because I have to give players a chance.
“I will change but I am not going with a team of seven kids or something like that. I can’t do that. I will risk but I can’t do that.”
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