Manchester United are in discussions with Anthony Martial about a new contract, in a move the board are confident has José Mourinho’s backing despite the manager previously being minded to allow him to depart.
Martial has been disaffected under the manager, and considered ending his Old Trafford career. Mourinho also wanted the forward to leave, questioning his attitude and contribution to the team, and was content for him to be sold in the summer window.
On the face of it, United’s bid to retain Martial could potentially put more strain on relations between manager and hierarchy after the club refused to grant Mourinho sufficient finances to buy a central defender of choice in the summer.
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Yet it is understood the board are confident of Mourinho’s support over Martial, and the move to prolong the player’s United career indicates their belief that the 22-year-old is yet to fulfil a potential that could make him one of the world’s elite players. The hope is that Martial will agree terms.
Mourinho’s side have lost two of their opening three matches – at Brighton and on Monday night against Tottenham at Old Trafford. Following that defeat an angry Mourinho stormed out of the media conference demanding more “respect” from journalists. His next public briefing is on Friday when he is bound to be asked about Martial and the apparent reversal of his stance that the Frenchman can leave.
Martial’s current terms end next year, though United have an option to extend to 2020. When signing in the summer of 2015 from Monaco under Louis van Gaal, Martial cost £36m, then a world record for a teenager, with the fee rising to £57m.
In some quarters the board’s discussions with Martial might be interpreted as a further example of an erosion of Mourinho’s control over transfers, with United set to appoint a first director of football in the club’s 140-year history, as revealed in the Observer.