Manchester United's Anthony Martial U-turn as Glazers blocked exit after Jose Mourinho 'disrespect'

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial
-Credit: (Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It came as no surprise when Manchester United announced on Tuesday afternoon that Anthony Martial would be exiting the club at the expiry of his contract.

The 28-year-old made 19 appearances for the Reds this season but not a single one of those came after December 23 as a mixture of illness and a groin injury kept him sidelined. United fans knew his time was up at the club after the Newcastle victory with supporters serenading him as the team did a lap of honour.

While the relationship between United and Martial has finally come to an end today, it is not the first time the forward seemed destined for the exit. After joining from AS Monaco in 2015, the Frenchman showed glimpses in his first campaign of why he was worth the gamble, bagging 17 goals in all competitions.

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After hitting double figures in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns, Martial's time at Old Trafford peaked in 2019/20 when he bagged 23 goals but it was downhill from there. But that season may not have become a reality if Jose Mourinho had his way.

In May 2018, the Portuguese launched an attack on the forward after he drew a blank against Brighton and Hove Albion. "I think you should be disappointed," Mourinho began.

"And when I say you I say media in a general way because for many months you are always asking me why this player doesn't play, why that player doesn't play, why this player is on the bench, why always [Romelu] Lukaku, why always this guy? So I think you should be disappointed more than me because probably I know my players better than you and probably you don't know them so well to be always with these questions."

Mourinho would be sacked in December 2018 with it understood that Joel Glazer had blocked the former Chelsea boss from selling the striker. It was a clear sign of the board backing the squad rather than the manager, a move which many fans have since credited with the club's demise.

Following his departure, Mourinho was accused of disrespecting Martial by the man himself. "The story did not start well," the forward said via the Daily Mirror.

Anthony Martial and Jose Mourinho pictured at Old Trafford
Anthony Martial and Jose Mourinho pictured at Old Trafford -Credit:Michael Regan/Getty Images

"He disrespected me, straight up... he was talking about me in the press. He likes these games, but he also knows who he is doing it with.

"He knows that I am 20 years old then and that if I say something, it is I who will be the young person who lacks respect. The second season [at United], I was the team's top scorer in the first part of the season, he brought in Alexis Sanchez and I hardly played anymore. It cost me dearly. I should have been there [the 2018 World Cup]."

By January 2019, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer presided over Martial being awarded a whopping five-and-a-half-year contract that was seemingly the end of the forward as a top star. A decision that was likely greeted by Glazer who by this stage had compared him to Brazilian great Pele.

From the 2020/21 campaign until his exit, the forward would not score as many goals combined as he did in that astonishing 2019/20 season. A loan spell with Sevilla in Erik ten Hag's first year at the club bared no fruit either but with no suitors last summer, Martial's contract was left to run out.

Anthony Martial pictured during his loan spell with Sevilla
Anthony Martial pictured during his loan spell with Sevilla -Credit:David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Looking back, the new deal for the Frenchman was short-sighted. When evaluating his career at Old Trafford, Martial and the fans will be able to reminisce about the good times but sadly he will forever be used as an example of systematic problems the Glazers' running of football operations caused.

Such a lucrative contract in 2019 was madness looking back and it would be surprising if Sir Jim Ratcliffe opts to give another player a contract of that length ever. At 28, it is now up to Martial to try and kick on in fresh surroundings but plenty of work will be needed to return to where he once was.