In-form Martial set to terrorise Crystal Palace
Anthony Martial is likely to be fit for Manchester United’s Premier League home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday despite appearing to pick up a minor injury in midweek.
Martial was outstanding as United won 4-1 away to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday, scoring a penalty and creating two goals for Romelu Lukaku.
The France forward was unable to complete the game, with Marcus Rashford replacing him in the 72nd minute, but the club have reported that the change was made as a precaution.
“It was a pity he couldn’t play for 90 minutes because I was ready to leave him on the pitch for the whole game,” said United manager Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho is hoping Martial is available to play against Palace, particularly with injury problems starting to pile up elsewhere.
Midfielders Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick were all absent from the trip to Russia because of injury, as were defenders Phil Jones and Antonio Valencia.
France midfielder Pogba has not played since suffering a hamstring injury early in the Champions League victory over Basel on September 12, while Fellaini was absent after picking up an ankle problem during last Saturday’s 1-0 win at Southampton.
Carrick, Jones and Valencia have unspecified injuries, and Mourinho is not yet sure if any of them will be available to face Palace.
“I think Carrick has no chance,” said Mourinho.
“I think Jones, I have many doubts, and Fellaini, I have a hope but just a hope.”
– ‘He is humble’ –
Despite those setbacks, United are second in the Premier League, and have won their last five matches in all competitions, scoring 16 goals in the process, before the visit of bottom club Palace.
Indeed, the win in Moscow was secured even though Mourinho had to make five changes and reshape his formation, switching from a back four to a three-man central defence in the absence of Jones, with Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling slotting in alongside Eric Bailly.
Lukaku has been the key player in that run, with his two goals in Moscow adding to the winner he scored at Southampton, and taking his total for United to 10 in nine matches.
“It is a great achievement but it is only possible with a good team,” said Mourinho.
“Without a good team it is not possible -– and the team is playing well.
“They are amazing numbers for Romelu. He is humble and wants to learn and improve all the time.
“I think ambition is there and I trust he can keep performing for us.”
Roy Hodgson could hardly have been given a more testing start following his appointment as Crystal Palace manager just four games into the new season.
Defeats in his first two games, at home to Southampton and away to Manchester City, meant Palace have set an unwanted Premier League record of becoming the first team to fail to register a single goal or point in their opening six games.
With Chelsea due to visit Selhurst Park after the trip to Old Trafford, things could get worse before they get better for the south London club.
And their hopes of breaking that run took a dip when Christian Benteke, Palace’s only available recognised striker, damaged knee ligaments at City and is now expected to be out for at least six weeks.