Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the English League Cup third round football match between Manchester United and Burton Albion at Old Trafford in Manchester on September 20, 2017. PAUL ELLIS / AFP
Anthony Martial must wait to discover if he has played his way back into Manchester United’s starting line-up for the Premier League visit to Southampton after scoring for the second consecutive game.
The 21-year-old French international has started just one league match for Jose Mourinho this season but came off the bench to score a penalty in last week’s 4-0 win over Everton.
He followed that up with a start and a goal in the midweek League Cup victory against Championship side Burton Albion, with his overall performance earning praise from Mourinho.
But with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Romelu Lukaku rested for the Burton game and expected to return, Martial appears to be among four players competing for two starting places against the Saints — along with Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard.
“Anthony Martial wanted to do things,” said Mourinho.
“Some he did amazingly well, others not so well but he was always trying and that commitment and happiness on the pitch is always important.
“Martial was good, Lingard was good, Mata was good.
“I think everybody in attacking areas gave a good dynamic in the team and especially happiness. We look happy playing at this moment and that is what I want.”
Martial struggled for form and consistency in Mourinho’s first year in charge at United last season, and was even criticised for his attitude by the Portuguese manager.
But he has clearly won over Mourinho so far in the current campaign even if competition for places is intense, particularly with Lukaku having scored seven goals in as many games and Rashford having found the net five times already.
“It’s difficult when you’re in and out of the team, but we have to find the positives out of it and I think we have both done that,” said Rashford of the battle for places.
“I think the competition is always positive competition because we’re improving each other every day when we’re in training and in the games. We’re pushing each other more and more.
“It’s a bit of a headache for the manager but it is a good headache for him to have.”
Virgil van Dijk made a surprise return to the Southampton squad for last weekend’s win at Crystal Palace, making a late appearance off the bench.
The centre-back had been training alone in the run up to the transfer deadline after making it clear he wanted a move away.
Southampton stood firm despite interest from Liverpool and Chelsea and with the matter settled at least until January, manager Mauricio Pellegrino is now ready to include the Holland international in his plans.
“We’ll decide tomorrow (Friday), but every single week Virgil is important because he is getting better,” said Pellegrino.
“After a long period of time without playing a game he is training well. It’s good news for us, because we need Virgil, like every single player in our squad.
“Virgil is a very important player for us. I think every single week he will improve, but at the same time he needs to train and play, because for me the best training session is playing games.”