Anthony Martial has long been rumored to be out of favor with José Mourinho, and the evidence is certainly there to support the claim. Martial has rarely featured since the arrival of Alexis Sánchez, and attempts to play him on the right wing quickly backfired. Marcus Rashford too has been rumored to be upset with the decrease in playing time. Mourinho is a manager who often brings in players in their prime rather than develop players at the clubs he has managed, but if he really considers United to be a long-term job his philosophy needs to change.
Alexis Sánchez, a wonderfully talented player, has finally begun to develop chemistry with his teammates. His presence on the left was vital to the 3-2 derby comeback against Manchester City, and he appears to have a much better understanding on the pitch with Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. All of that being said, Alexis is 29 years old. He is a great player who was a good pick up by United, but not if that means pushing out future players, even at the cost of winning now.
For the record: This is not an article arguing Alexis should not be starting, or that he should not have been brought in from Arsenal. Mourinho must try to find a way to best utilize him and Martial and Rashford. The problem of course is fitting 3 left-wingers into the formation.
Martial and Rashford are 22 and 20 years old respectively. They’re both fan favorites at Old Trafford, and everyone is certainly aware of the potential they have in addition to the quality they already possess. Though Martial doesn’t appear to be as consistent mentally as Rashford, both can be afforded some slack in that department. Rashford in particular has been able to bounce back from difficult spells, and it has been noted by the manager that his work ethic in training is never in question. Martial on the other hand could potentially lose his way at United by lacking the will to overcome mental obstacles to his form.
Martial’s unwillingness to play anywhere other than the left-wing is an unfortunately pouty display from the young Frenchmen. The arrival of Alexis has displaced Martial, but that doesn’t mean the manager cannot find a way to play them and Rashford together. Mourinho initially intended for he and Alexis to be the primary wingers, but neither seem comfortable away from the left. Alexis could potentially be a centrally based player.
Moving Alexis into the middle behind Lukaku will also allow Mourinho to experiment further with Rashford on the right hand side of the attack, a decision that allowed him to move freely and create chances against Bournemouth. Having Martial and Rashford on the pitch at the same time is not a common occasion for United fans, though it is something they’ve wanted for a long time.
Alexis playing between the two young wingers in a no. 10 role will also pair Pogba with another creative attack minded player in the center of the park. The two have developed some chemistry in recent weeks, and Alexis is a player who often drifts towards the middle anyway. With Martial on the left there is no worry of the center becoming cluttered like it was in the ugly loss against West Brom.
Rashford and Martial are seen by many Mancunians as the next generation of United greats. Mourinho has options to make both of his young wingers happy with more playing time and put them in a position to regularly contribute in the starting 11. The quality is there, they just need the opportunity to produce. If Mourinho plans on staying at Old Trafford for the long haul he must value his younger players more. Both for the success of the team and his reputation as manager, Rashford and Martial must be used more.