Erik ten Hag has defended Anthony Marital after an uninspiring cameo in the defeat against Brighton and insists the Frenchman will ‘definitely contribute’ this season.
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The United boss has kept faith in Martial since his arrival at Old Trafford despite the striker’s well-documented injury problems, having not completed a Premier League game since January 2021.
After two consecutive starts against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal, Martial made way for £72million signing Rasmus Hojlund against Brighton on Saturday. The Denmark international was United’s best player on an otherwise dismal afternoon, denied a home debut goal after his effort was ruled out in the first-half.
Hojlund was replaced by Martial just after the hour mark, a change that prompted loud boos from all around Old Trafford with United desperately chasing a goal.
United fell three goals behind seven minutes later through Joao Pedro’s strike with Hannibal Mejbri’s consolation effort doing little to lift spirits.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, ten Hag dismissed suggestions the boos that rang out were for Martial’s introduction.
‘I think it was because Hojlund came off,’ ten Hag said. ‘I don’t want to discuss that. I think Anthony Martial last year when he played he had very positive effect on our games.
‘I think we almost did not lose a game with Martial on the pitch so if that’s the fact then I don’t understand, when he is fit he contributes.
‘At this moment he’s not top fit and he’s improving. When he is 100% fit he will contribute like last season. He has to make also be available and keep being consistently available and then his form will be better.
‘Every time last year he affected our game in a positive way, I hope he stays fit and he will contribute to our game.’
United’s focus now shifts to their opening Champions League group game away to Bayern Munich next week where they are expected to remain without a clutch of injured players including Raphael Varane, Mason Mount, Luke Shaw, Kobbie Mainoo and Tyrell Malacia.
‘Maybe one player [will return] but I think Munich is a little bit too short [soon],’ ten Hag continued. ‘I think when we go to Burnley and week after we will return players.’
‘Absolutely Bayern Munich is one of the favourites for the Champions League so we have to be good there. I think I already explained that we need character, belief, resilience, determination.’
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