Jose Mourinho has no idea when Anthony Martial will return to Manchester United training as speculation over the forward’s future grows.
A frustrating pre-season tour of the United States ended with a 2-1 win against Champions League holders Real Madrid on Tuesday, when the French forward was again conspicuous by his absence.
While many players were unable to feature Stateside due to their World Cup exertions, Martial started United’s first two friendlies before telling Mourinho he would be leaving for the birth of his second child.
The 22-year-old’s failure to return from Europe after the birth irked his manager, who expressed his annoyance after the penultimate match of the tour against Liverpool by saying “he should be here, and he is not here”.
That frustration has festered and, having initially sidestepped a question about his future, Mourinho said, “I don’t know” when asked if Martial would be back with the group in Manchester.
The France forward’s Old Trafford future looks more uncertain than ever, with his manager appearing to aim a thinly-veiled dig at him after beating Real as next Friday’s Premier League opener against Leicester looms large.
“My players, amazing in their effort but we have more effort in front of us,” said Mourinho, who leads United to Bayern Munich on Sunday in their final pre-season friendly.
“Because in a few days we go to Munich and we start the Premier League in nine days.
“These are the players that we have plus (Victor) Lindelof, that starts training two days ago, plus Marcus Rashford, (Phil) Jones and (Romelu) Lukaku because they gave to the group and to the team three days of their holidays.
“So, they’re coming back three days early to try and be available for the team.
“And with the fantastic spirit we have in the majority of the players, I repeat: in the majority of the players, we have a fantastic spirit, we go with everything we have to the Premier League.”
It is hard to see a thawing of the tensions between Martial and Mourinho, with the United forward sure to be one of the main subjects of transfer talk this month.
Full-back Matteo Darmian is another hoping to leave Old Trafford in the coming weeks, while Mourinho is hopeful of bringing in at least one of the two transfer targets he wants.
Brazil international Fred, young full-back Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant are all that have arrived so far this summer, but January acquisition Alexis Sanchez is now beginning to show his true quality.
“We were just trying to survive and to have the best possible results,” Mourinho said of the American tour. “But as I was saying to the players, some of my players they will be an amazing condition.
“You imagine an Alexis Sanchez fresh? The way the man is running after playing four matches of 90 minutes, I think he’s in a fantastic condition.
“So, let’s look at it from a positive side and wait for Lindelof, Rashford, Lukaku and Jones, which are going to be four important players for us.
“Not prepared but they will be back and when you are in trouble they will help us and that’s the spirit we need because I think our first two-three weeks in the Premier League – Leicester, Brighton, Tottenham – are going to be really hard for us because we didn’t prepare for that but that’s what it is.”