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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

Manchester United v Paris Saint-Germain: Martial takes swipe at Mourinho by praising Solskjaer's 'style of football'

French forward looked set for the exit under his former manager, but has thrived since the Norwegian's arrival and has signed a new long-term contract

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, left, and Anthony Martial speak to the media ahead of Manchester United's match against Paris Saint-Germain. AFP
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, left, and Anthony Martial speak to the media ahead of Manchester United's match against Paris Saint-Germain. AFP

Anthony Martial took a swipe at Jose Mourinho’s defensive brand of football by declaring it is easier to play for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a rejuvenated Manchester United look to extend their superb run and eliminate Paris Saint-Germain from the Uefa Champions League.

United have won 10 and drawn one of 11 games under the Norwegian since Mourinho’s sacking and Martial, who capped his fine form for the interim appointment with a glorious solo goal in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Fulham, believes Solskjaer’s more attacking ethos suits him better.

Mourinho was willing to sell Martial last summer but the Frenchman signed a five-year contract extension in January.

“We have got a coach who has different intentions,” said Martial. “Perhaps it is easier to play this style of football and not the style of football he [Mourinho] asked.

"When our new coach came in, he had a lot of confidence and a lot of determination and that was really helpful. We are trying to pay him back in kind and things are working out well.”

If Mourinho was too negative, Martial said Solskjaer’s instructions are the opposite.

“He is asking me to attack more,” he said. “That is my job after all: to make the difference, to be more decisive. Things are working out well for the other attackers.”

Paul Pogba, who was omitted by Mourinho at the end of his reign, has scored eight goals in his last nine games and Martial said: “Paul is Paul. He has a huge amount of quality. He is one of the best midfielders in the world and that is what he is showing.”

United’s fine form under Solskjaer has catapulted the caretaker into contention to take the role on a long-term basis and Martial added: “Obviously things are going really well, we are really happy to have him here and we hope we can continue.”

Solskjaer believes United are in an ideal state as they prepare to welcome the French champions on Tuesday night. They were 11 points off the Champions League places after a 3-1 defeat at Anfield in Mourinho’s final game but United are now fourth.

“We knew we had a big challenge in front of us because we were far behind in the league and confidence was low after Liverpool but they have responded fantastically," Solskjaer said.

"I don’t think we could be in a better frame of mind. We have given ourselves the best possible opportunity. We have found out what kind of team we have, so if there is any time to go into big games it is now.”

United are only missing the injured Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia for Tuesday’s game - Ashley Young, who on Monday signed a contract extension until 2020, seems set to start at right-back - whereas Paris Saint-Germain are without the sidelined Edinson Cavani, Thomas Meunier and Neymar.

“Any team would miss players like that, but it’s more unpredictable for us, who they are play,” Solskjaer said.

Solskjaer scored the winner in the 1999 Champions League final and admitted United have had too few marquee ties in the competition’s final stages at Old Trafford since Alex Ferguson’s retirement six years ago.

“Maybe one of the last exciting knockout games was against Real Madrid [in 2013] when Nani was sent off,” he added. “Of course we had Bayern [Munich under David Moyes] too. The players and the supporters have been looking forward to this, they have always been special.”

Solskjaer cast his mind back to 2007 and one of United’s biggest wins. “Maybe my last was Roma when we won 7-1. We lost 2-1 away and the manager [Ferguson] was so happy. He said: ‘That’s OK; we will win at home.’”

Updated: February 11, 2019 08:44 PM

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