Anthony Martial said this week that his recent run of form is down to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho giving him a prolonged run of games in the starting XI.
The Frenchman has scored six goals in seven league games since establishing himself as a regular starter at the end of September, having previously started just one match out of a possible seven.
“The key to it is playing games,” Martial explained. “For me, when you play in a game, that’s when you get back your enjoyment and you start to pick up your form once again.
“If you don’t feature regularly and you only take part in training sessions, you might still be in decent form, but it’s not the same as when you are playing in matches.”
Things are going well for Martial right now, but the same cannot be said for any of United’s other attackers.
Romelu Lukaku began the season in goalscoring form, netting four goals in his first four starts, but he has now gone 11 games without a goal and he finds himself in and out of the starting XI.
As for Marcus Rashford, Mourinho reeled off earlier this season how much game time the 21-year-old has had, but can we really judge how important he could be to this United team when he starts two games, misses the next game, comes off the bench in the next game, and then plays another 60 minutes here and there?
The same goes with Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has deservedly had his critics this season but, like Rashford, he has only started five league matches and appeared as a substitute another five times. Has he really been given the best chance to recreate the form he showed at Arsenal?
United’s other attack-minded players, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard, have been just as interchangeable as Rashford and Sanchez, with both men starting six league games out of 13 and each completing 90 minutes just once.
It has got to the stage where it is unfair on United to compare them to City — Pep Guardiola’s side are superior in almost every department — but even if you compare Mourinho’s XIs to Arsenal and Tottenham, it is clear that Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino know who their best, most reliable attackers are.
If Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Heung-Min Son have a few off-days, there’s not a chance of them being frozen out by Emery and Pochettino in the same way that Mourinho leaves his underperforming players out for weeks on end.
Even Bournemouth, one point and one place below United in the table, have a strong strike partnership of Josh King and Callum Wilson, with fellow attack-minded players David Brooks and Ryan Fraser causing problems from midfield.
Everton, one point and one place above United, also have a clear identity, with Theo Walcott, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson their key men going forward.
Mourinho, meanwhile, only has Martial as a guaranteed starter in attack because, after over two years at Old Trafford, he still hasn’t worked out who he can trust with a regular place in the team.
If the United boss is to get the best out of any of his other attackers, he needs to give them time in the starting XI and stop rotating for the sake of rotating.
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