MANCHESTER, UK: Anthony Martial’s Manchester United future has looked to be in severe doubt lately, so Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie against Wigan carries extra significance for him.
United boss Jose Mourinho has confirmed that the France forward will start the match, having been omitted from the squad for the last two matches.
It will be the first time that Martial has played since he started the 1-1 Premier League draw against Liverpool on January 15, when he was substituted after 65 minutes.
Asked directly on Wednesday if he thought that Martial had lost his focus, Mourinho said no, although he did add that “I think he just didn’t catch with both hands a big opportunity he had”.
Mourinho, though, has promised Martial he will keep his place if he performs well against a Wigan side that have climbed out of the Championship relegation zone after winning their last two matches.
The manager will also play Sergio Romero in goal after agreeing to give David de Gea the weekend off, with Joel Pereira named on the bench as back up, while left-back Luke Shaw will play for the first time since November after recovering from injury.
“Anthony will play on Sunday and if he plays magnificently, he will play against Hull in the next match — it’s simple,” Mourinho said.
United have secured a place in the League Cup final, beating Hull 3-2 on aggregate despite losing Thursday’s second leg 2-1, a result that ended the club’s 17-match unbeaten run.
Mourinho was unimpressed with his side’s display at the KCOM Stadium, and has made clear he expects better on Sunday.
His team won 2-0 at Wigan in a pre-season friendly, although the Championship club has changed their manager since then.
Gary Caldwell was sacked in late October and replaced early the following month by Warren Joyce, who spent 10 years as the reserve team manager at Old Trafford.
“We know the difficulty to play against Championship teams. We played Wigan already in pre-season and now they are with Warren, who knows us well and will come with special motivation to play against his old club,” Mourinho said.
“I worked at the club with him for a few months but it was enough to know he’s a very nice man, a very passionate football man. He took the risk, accepted the challenge and left a good situation at this club.”
Joyce had a difficult start at Wigan, losing seven of his first 10 league matches in charge, although successive wins over Burton and Brentford have improved the mood considerably.
He is not the only United connection at Wigan.
Midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, on loan from Fulham, is set to feature against the club where he started his career.
Joyce is Wigan’s fourth permanent manager since Roberto Martinez won the FA Cup with them in 2013; two relegations followed, and they were only promoted back to the Championship in May.
The manager has played down the significance of his Old Trafford return, saying: “I don’t think this game is about me.