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Anthony Martial finds some form in Man Utd's FA Cup win over Wigan
Last Updated: 29/01/17 6:52pm
Jose Mourinho said Anthony Martial had to "play magnificent" against Wigan to win back his Premier League spot. We assess his performance in the 4-0 FA Cup victory...
Jose Mourinho threw down the gauntlet to Anthony Martial ahead of Manchester United's FA Cup fourth round tie with Wigan.
The Frenchman's absence from the past two matchday squads had raised questions over his immediate future, with reports suggesting a loan move to Sevilla could be a possibility.
Addressing the topic on Friday, Mourinho made clear what last season's top scorer would have to do to return to his plans for Wednesday's Premier League clash with Hull. "If Sunday he plays magnificent, he will play against Hull City in the next match," said the manager. "It's simple."
So, how did Martial do on his audition? Did he play well enough to earn a recall to United's Premier League line-up?
"Magnificent" may be too strong an adjective - but there were plenty of positives.
First there was the shaky start. Martial began the game as a central striker - and once again delivered a reminder that his strength does not lie in receiving the ball with his back to goal.
The 21-year-old gave up possession twice in quick succession in the opening minutes before majorly miscuing a cross and sending the ball flying high over the Wigan goal.
Another moment of poor control from a long ball led to Martial making a poor pass to Juan Mata, which, once again, allowed Wigan to retrieve possession.
But as the first half wore on, Martial drifted away from the constraints of his central role and began to demonstrate his qualities.
Anthony Martial v Wigan
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Driving into the left channel on 25 minutes, he won a corner for his side off right-back Callum Connolly. Picking the ball up five minutes later in his own half, he charged at the heart of the Wigan defence before teeing up Timothy Fosu-Mensah for a dangerous cross to Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Yet Martial finished the half with the lowest passing accuracy on the team, with no shots to his name and more unsuccessful touches than any of his team-mates.
A half-time adjustment from Mourinho saw Martial moved out to the left flank. With room to run into and the chance to receive the ball facing the opposition, the young forward came to the fore.
Another driving run on the counter-attack drew a desperate foul from his marker, before Martial produced a moment of magic to set up Chris Smalling's headed goal on 57 minutes. Cutting back onto his right foot on the edge of the penalty area, he clipped an inch-perfect cross for his team-mate to nod home.
Cup specialist Martial
Anthony Martial has been involved in nine goals in his last eight FA Cup games (3 goals, 6 assists).
Martial's second assist came from the same left-hand channel on 74 minutes but on that occasion capped a superb high-speed break with Mkhitaryan. Racing through onto the Armenian's through ball, Martial left defenders in his wake before picking the perfect moment to roll the ball back into Mkhitaryan's path for a simple finish.
Martial could have had a hat-trick of assists had his header back across goal not been expertly volleyed over his own bar by Wigan centre-back Dan Burn and the French forward showed his frustration after his 86th minute volley was ruled out because of Bastian Schweinsteiger's high foot in the build-up.
Despite those near-misses, it was an eye-catching performance from Martial. But will it be enough to impress Mourinho?
The initial suggestion would be perhaps not.
Asked after the game whether players who hadn't been playing recently had given him food for thought, Mourinho said: "No. The performance of the team was good enough. The performance of the players individually were good enough, too, obviously some better than others. I'm happy with what they did."
Martial will have to wait until Wednesday to find out whether "good enough" puts him in contention for a Premier League return.