Jose Mourinho has challenged Anthony Martial to produce the goods on a more consistent basis after the Manchester United frontman caught the eye against Real Madrid.
Martial produced a scintillating weaving run to set up Jesse Lingard’s opening goal in United’s 1-1 draw against Real in the International Champions Cup at Santa Clara, California, on Sunday, albeit the French international blazed over from the spot in the penalty shootout that followed the draw.
The 21-year-old shone during his impressive debut campaign at Old Trafford under Louis van Gaal two years ago, yet struggled under Mourinho last season — prompting speculation that he could be on the move this summer.
But after Martial looked back to his best, Mourinho admitted that talent is not the issue for the United forward.
“Obviously, we want more consistency in his talent,” said Mourinho. “I think today was positive for him. That’s why I left him for 90 minutes on the pitch. He was enjoying it, trying things and it’s important in these friendly matches to try things, which he did.
“That’s only good for his confidence.”
On the stroke of half-time, Martial’s quick feet saw him leave both Daniel Carvajal and Luka Modric for dead, before squaring the ball across the six-yard box for Lingard to tap home.
It was just a reward for Lingard after he was the best player on the pitch during the first half, only a smart save from Keylor Navas keeping out a swerving shot from 25 yards in the seventh minute.
In their first pre-season outing, Real were understandably rusty during the first half, but they improved significantly after Zinedine Zidane changed his entire 11 at the interval and introduced a host of youngsters.
They drew level when Victor Lindelof brought down summer signing Theo Hernandez in the area and Casemiro smashed home the resulting spot-kick.
Zidane said he was “satisfied” with the performance, particularly the contribution of the club’s hot prospects.
But when asked about the depth of his squad and whether he was chasing a replacement for the departed Alvaro Morata, Zidane was cautious at being drawn over any transfer business.
“I’ve talked to the president, but we have a roster of 28 players and I’m happy,” said the Real boss.
“Ultimately, we will see. We have until August 31, but I have not asked for any (players).”
United won 2-1 in a desperately low-quality penalty shootout at the conclusion of the encounter, but it was an injury to midfielder Ander Herrera which was preying on Mourinho’s mind afterwards.
The half-time substitute lasted just seven minutes before he was forced off with a rib injury.
“For him to come off, it has to be very painful,” Mourinho said. “I want to wait and see what it is but I always say there’s no risk in friendly matches. If you feel that something is coming, a little injury, then get off. The result is not important.”
Herrera is expected to join Juan Mata on the treatment table when United round off their Stateside pre-season tour against Barcelona, in Landover, Maryland on Wednesday.
But despite a hectic period of five games in the space of 12 days, Mourinho feels the trip has been beneficial.
“We managed to organise the pre-season in a way where we were based in LA for 15 days,” he added. “It’s fantastic to always be in the same hotel, same training ground. The flights were quite short to go to Salt Lake, Houston.
“Now we go to (Washington) and that’s halfway home, almost.
“In terms of jet lag, it’s halfway home. These next three days in DC are not a problem. After that, we have two more matches to play in Norway and Ireland. Travelling in the same day, short flights. I’m really happy with our pre-season.
“If Mata and Ander are not a problem in terms of injuries, then it’s a perfect pre-season for us.”