Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag could be playing ‘mind games’ over Anthony Martial’s absence, it has been claimed. The France international has only made one Premier League appearance so far. And he is set to miss tonight’s Europa League showdown with Real Sociedad as injuries continue to keep him out of action.
Manchester United decided to keep Martial this summer, despite the forward’s struggles under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Sevilla last season.
He responded by scoring four times during pre-season but, since then, has been limited to just one Premier League appearance due to injury.
Speaking ahead of United’s Europa League showdown with Real Sociedad on Thursday night, Ten Hag confirmed Martial would be out for the showdown – but didn’t really elaborate on the 26-year-old’s situation.
And Ben Dinnery, who runs the Premier Injuries site, thinks Ten Hag may be playing ‘mind games’ when it comes to his current number 9.
“The first thoughts were that it would be just one time-wasting game,” he told Football Insider.
“But Ten Hag came out and said there was no definitive schedule.
Man Utd Transfers: Glaziers ready to support Ten Hag with the biggest appeal of all
“There are many ways to take this. First of all, we don’t know much about how Ten Hag handles media and the updates it provides.
“He certainly hasn’t been open about a lot of players in terms of their absence from the squad.
“Aaron Wan Bissaka, Phil Jones, Luke Shaw Axel Tuanzabe. Those players kind of disappeared with little to no reference to them.
“It could be a very conscious effort to fix his attention on the available players.
“There could be mind games, smoke and mirrors. Ten Hag may have a very good idea about Martial’s return but won’t tell us. It is certainly a possibility.
Opinion: Glazers have five reasons to sell Man Utd
“It also depends on the type of injury. It could be a blow that evolved to be more serious than we thought.
“But if it’s an overuse injury, it’s in line with what the manager has said in terms of not being able to provide a timeline.
“He responds to the training load and is assessed on a day-to-day basis, so it’s hard to say when a player might return.”
United have done well without Martial, despite his impressive performances before the start of the season.
Marcus Rashford has been deployed in the middle, with the England international scoring three goals in six Premier League appearances so far.
Still, Cristiano Ronaldo is set to lead the line against Sociedad tonight as the Red Devils chase another Premier League victory.
Want the new Man Utd shirt? Click on here to buy it.
The Portugal international has started just one game this season – the 4-0 loss to Brentford last month.
But Ronaldo has impressed coming off the bench in recent games and, with Ten Hag set to turn, he’s ready for a starting spot.
The 37-year-old has never played in the Europa League before.
But he played for Sporting Lisbon when the competition was known as the UEFA Cup, before it was overhauled in 2009.
Speaking ahead of United’s game against Real Sociedad, Ten Hag admitted he was hoping to win the competition.
When asked if he would tour and if the Europa League was the right competition to do so, he replied: “We have to win every game and we want to win every tournament, so we have to take everything seriously.
Manchester Utd schedule: When Erik ten Hag’s side take on every Premier League side
“We don’t just have a team, we have a team, that’s for sure. But we have to win every game. That’s the mentality that Manchester United need.”
And Ten Hag also admitted he probably couldn’t satisfy every United player with his squad selections.
“Maybe I can’t keep them all happy in every game, but everyone gets their playing time if they play well, that’s pretty clear,” he said.
“But what I’m saying, we need everyone – we have a lot of games to cover.
“There are a lot of things ahead of us, and the national teams of course – the World Cup – but also all the cups in England.
“The Europa League where we enter now and, of course, the Premier League.”
Want the latest football news? Join our brand new Facebook group by clicking here
Ten Hag accused of Martial ‘mind games’ amid continued absence from Man Utd