Manchester United is tangling with Anderlecht for a berth in the UEFA Europa League semifinals, and manager Jose Mourinho met with the press on Wednesday to preview the Thursday encounter at Old Trafford.
The sides are level at 1 after the first leg, one which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan score a first-half tally.
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Mourinho admits that, like most Cup competitions, United’s Europa League efforts are amped up by progressing deep in the tournament.
“The first thing is to have the motivation high. At a club like United, when you start the Europa League, you don’t have the motivation high, but that’s September. At this stage, you have high motivation. We showed in Brussels that we are a strong team, but you have to equalise the motivational levels [shown against Chelsea], that’s the most important thing.”
Mourinho said Martial would be wise to take a peek at another United youngster. Marcus Rashford has adjusted to Mourinho’s way of thinking, and both have an understanding of each other. By now, Mourinho says, Martial should know what the manager prefers from his players.
‘The same way I know what the players like, I think the players also know what I like. The same way I have to go with the direction of the players, the players have to come in my direction.
‘That’s the point. That’s why Marcus Rashford, even without scoring goals and not in the Premier League since September, he is always a player that I trust and I play and support because he was always coming in my direction.”
Martial has seven goals and six assists in 1,907 minutes this season, compared to 18 and 11 in 4,663 under Louis Van Gaal last season. His production pace is a bit better this season despite more scattershot time on the field, and Mourinho’s comments may speak more to personality than performance.