Erik ten Hag has made his Anthony Martial feelings clear as striker returns to Manchester United fold

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has often stressed Anthony Martial’s importance to his team.

The France striker suffered seven separate injuries last season, limiting him to 29 appearances in all competitions and scoring eight goals. Martial’s injury record has seen him struggle to recapture the form that saw him contribute 35 goal involvements for United during the 2019/20 season.

The 27-year-old has entered the final year of his contract and the signing of Rasmus Hojlund has led to plenty of speculation over his future at the club. Ten Hag, though, has always insisted that United have played some of the best football of his tenure when Martial is in the side.

The France international was handed his first start for several months in the 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday, coming off at the hour mark. And Ten Hag is likely to lean on him again at Arsenal this weekend.

READ: Manchester United could see another surprise player emerge

August 26 – (vs Nottingham Forest) – “We built him very carefully throughout the whole pre-season. So he did a lot of work individually in the last few weeks with the team, and he is ready to play.”

August 25 – Asked if United need to sign another striker – “No. We have seven front players and young talent coming up, as we’ve seen in pre-season, who are getting close. Rasmus will be available from next week onwards. Rasmus, Anthony Martial, we have cover. We have Rashy as well there. We have enough quality players to cover that position.”.

July 25 – “When you have a player in your squad you have to expect he is available and the players have to take responsibility to be available but when he is not, I have to deal with the situation and we have shown we can be successful without that striker.

“But, of course, it’s easier when you have that striker in your team because every club who wins big trophies has scoring abilities in that team.

“We need a good squad and Anthony Martial is a brilliant football player, so he will help us score goals. And also in other areas like pressing and possession in combinations, he’s a great player. So we hope he’s fit and he stays fit.”

May 24 (vs Bournemouth) – “If you are not available, you can’t score. When he was available we played better, the team is winning games, he’s also scoring goals but he has to be available.”

On reaction to being subbed off – “I think he played well, he returned to the bench, he’s okay,” Ten Hag told talkSPORT. “I think he just shot into the dressing room, I don’t know what you want to make from it.”

April 15 – “He’s a great player – he definitely has the qualities to play in top football – and when he is fit our team plays better,” said Erik ten Hag last month.

April 13 (vs Sevilla) – “Risky [playing Martial]? Have you seen the last five seasons [injuries]? I just hope for him, he stays fit and that he plays some games in a row because he needs that for his confidence. When he’s on the pitch, he will score, he will link up, do good, but yeah, keep fit and when he’s fit, he’s massive for us.”

April 12 – On fitness record – “You say I defended him, yeah. But I just point to the stats. The stats are telling you the moment he is on the pitch, the time he needs for a goal is less. When he’s in the team, I refer to games against Man City and against Liverpool, we play our best football and we have our best results as a team. I defend him because I point to the stats and I see how he contributes to this team.”

April 5 – “First place, frustrated for himself. He’s the player who is most in the gym, he doesn’t want to be there, he wants to be on the pitch. But, of course, first for our team, it’s frustration, and second for a manager as well because when your best players are available you have a better chance of winning games. I only have to refer to Liverpool home, Man City home when he was available and he makes a difference.

March 18 – Asked about Martial’s future – “I don’t think it is the right moment to be the case. I believe in him, every time he is available he really contributes to the team performance, the level of the team is upgrading when he is available. We are working with him to get fit and be available.”

February 7 – On Martial’s injuries – “No, every time in different areas. At the minute, it is his hip,” Ten Hag said. “He is not always available, but also I see the other side when he is available. He was never 100 per cent this season but he had a big impact every time he is available, even when he is at 80, 85, 90 per cent.

“So we do everything and Anthony Martial is doing everything. I think Anthony Martial is the player who has spent the most hours at Carrington this season, to return to recover, to get back, it is really so a pity for him that he is disappointed.

January 25 – “He is not constantly injured, he is playing games,” Ten Hag said. “He has to work on that. On that fact, I agree. He has to be more available and he can’t do nothing for it in that sense and sometimes it’s also bad luck.

“But sometimes you don’t know what the reason behind it is. But when he is there, he is really important for us because we play our best football when he is available. He has to be aware of that as well. So if we want to be successful, we need him First thing is, he has to be available.”

November 11 – “It’s quite clear in my way of playing, I like the type that Anthony Martial is because he can hold the ball, he’s a target, he can link up, he can also run behind, he has speed, he can finish and he’s a good presser.”

August 23, 2022 (vs Liverpool) – “With him [Martial], he wasn’t available for 90 minutes after his injury, but he gives on the ball a way out for the team,” Ten Hag said. “He can be a target, he knows the right positions and he has the skills to play through. We saw that with the second goal.

“It was the right moment to bring him on the pitch.”

July 15, 2022 – “I’m sure he can come back even better. I think when he has the right focus and the right motivation and he works hard he will have production because he is a good player. I say when he has the right focus and every day delivers much then he will have production and it’s up to him.”

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