Solskjaer expects more from Martial, as Lukaku continues to sit out
Red Devils' Belgian striker unlikely to play in ICC match against Inter on Saturday
Romelu Lukaku is set to miss Manchester United’s third straight pre-season friendly, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expecting potentially “world-class forward” Anthony Martial to be better than last season.
The Red Devils manager made the comments at a press conference at the National Stadium on Friday (July 19), ahead of his side’s International Champions Cup clash against Inter Milan at the same venue on Saturday.
If the Italian side had their way, Lukaku would be turning out in their colours during the match.
Last week, Inter’s sporting director Piero Ausilio travelled to London to negotiate a deal for Lukaku, while chief executive Giuseppe Marotta later said he was “optimistic” of an agreement.
However, the 26-year-old Belgian will not be involved in the match for either team. On Friday evening, he sat out United's training session at the National Stadium and watched from the bench.
Said Solskjaer: “He is not fit, he won’t be available, no.”
The Norwegian added that there were no transfer updates regarding the striker, who missed both United’s friendlies in Australia last week against Perth Glory and Leeds United.
However, Solskjaer was optimistic about Martial.
When asked if he was expecting a big season out of the 23-year-old Frenchman, Solskjaer said: “Anthony can be a world-class forward.
“I think if you followed Anthony, the way he has come back to pre-season, his attitude is spot on.
“I think he has always got the quality and talent, so I expect him, and Marcus (Rashford), to be even better than last season. Anthony had a top season when he came, I expect we will see a better Anthony next season.”
Martial scored 12 goals last term, better than his previous two campaigns, but less than his debut season at Old Trafford in 2015/16, when he was the club’s top scorer with 17 goals.
Having signed a pair of 21-year-olds, Welsh winger Daniel James for £15 million (S$25.4m) from Swansea City and English right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £45 million from Crystal Palace, Solskjaer said he is still in the market for one or two more players.
Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has said the club have rejected two bids – reportedly from United – for the England centre-back Harry Maguire because they were below valuation, and warned there would be a cut-off point for bids for the 26-year-old.
Meanwhile, Portuguese media reported that a United bid for midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who scored 31 goals for Sporting Lisbon last season, will be made soon.
For the moment though, Solskjaer is focusing on getting his side to regain the form that saw them win 14 of the first 19 matches after his appointment last December.
Said Solskjaer: “We’ve worked them hard. I don’t think many players have had a pre-season like this before.
“In the first eight to 10 games, you can lose the chance to win games, so the first two months are vital...
“I am looking to get everyone to get their form back to when we first came in.
“It is not just about (Paul) Pogba, it is about all of us as a team. Everyone has been spot on in pre-season in training and the games. I have been very encouraged.”
Last season, United finished sixth in the English Premier League and did not challenge for silverware on any front.
Said midfielder Nemanja Matic: “That was not a good season for all of us. Our target was to play (in the) Champions League, but we didn’t make it.
“We have to do better, we have to do more. We have to fight for trophies, we expect to do better.
“My position is very important to talk to my teammates, especially as one of the senior players. I am trying... This season we will play much better.”