Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Anthony Martial is working harder in the gym and has paid tribute to Odion Ighalo’s impact on the Frenchman’s resurgence at Manchester United.
Martial, who burst onto the scene under Louis van Gaal at Old Trafford, is back in the groove.
The 24-year-old striker had lost his way somewhat in the last few years, but the first hat-trick of his United career last week has finally started to repay Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s faith in him.
The treble that downed Sheffield United has been a long time coming, but Solskjaer says he always had faith in the former Monaco man who United forked out an initial £36m for in 2015.
“He’s playing with a smile on his face,” Solskjaer tells Sky Sports in an exclusive interview.
“Anthony has had a really good season, he’s been really important for us. We felt it during the couple of months he was out injured; we struggled.
“But he knows that we trust him. He knows that we’ll have patience with him and that we’ll keep working with him.”
“He’s working hard in the gym,” Solskjaer says. “He’s enjoying the physical challenge more.”
“He’s a good finisher but it’s about being in and around the right positions,” Solskjaer says of a player now thriving in a central role. “He’s developed more and more in terms of getting into that penalty area and closer to the goal.
“We do a lot of work in finishing groups and sessions but it’s also down to him to be mentally sharp and ready. We’ve always known he’s a quality player and highly, highly skilful.”
Ighalo arrived in January to much derision.
However, the experienced former Watford striker, despite his 31-years has proved to be a breathe of fresh air and has been an invaluable ally to Martial.
“Odion is a seasoned No 9. He’s played that position his whole career whereas Anthony has played more out on the wing. Odion is helping on the training pitch, in terms of his movement, hold-up play and just being himself… Anthony’s learning off an experienced centre-forward.
“It’s the first season that he’s really playing as a No. 9; he’s had to have that burden of the shirt and be that central focus through the middle.
“Sometimes that’s not easy when you play for Manchester United but he knows that we trust him and I think he knows that we want him to keep developing.
“We’ll keep challenging him. There are always players in and around the team – and outside the club – who would want to be No. 9 for Manchester United. There’s always pressure on a centre-forward but so far he’s performed really well.”