The Weekly Sermon

On the 25th July, Anthony Martial left Manchester United’s pre-season tour of the US. Cue the media going into overload. Clearly, this was a sign that Martial was to leave the club, he had a falling out with Jose Mourinho and decided to leave for good. Except that wasn’t it at all, he had left the tour to be by his girlfriend’s side as she gave birth to his second child.

This is perfectly normal behaviour in 2018. Gone are the days of a father stumbling into the hospital after celebrating at the pub. Most men move heaven and earth to be at the side of their partner during one of the most stressful times of their lives. Martial managed to return to his girlfriend in time for the birth. There were complications but mother and daughter are now both fine and Martial was there to help them both.

It seems after some initial reports stated otherwise, that Manchester United were on board with Martial leaving the tour. However, they seem to have expected the Frenchman to come back as soon as the birth was completed. In the press conference following the birth, Jose Mourinho said:

“He has the baby and after the baby is born – beautiful baby, full of health, thank god. He should be here, and he is not here.” 

On Thursday, it was reported that Martial could face a fine of up to £180,000 for his failure to return to training earlier under the supervision of Mourinho’s staff.

Now there is a chance that Martial had previously stated he would return to training on a specific date, only to then miss that date and therefore he has incurred a fine. If that is the case and he didn’t communicate that to the club while he was away, then maybe the fine is justified.

Other than that, this is absolute nonsense. Martial has every right to go and see the birth of his child. He’s not a robot. If he was a postman, no one would bat an eye with him taking time off.

Thankfully, the public at large seems to be generally in favour of Martial’s behaviour. Only the more unhinged members of the public are upset. Everyone else recognises that some things are bigger than football, something that Martial himself said this week on Twitter. Family will always come first.

However, Jose Mourinho seems to think football is more important than everything else. He demands that his players give up their humanity and free thinking and fight for his cause. They must give in to the cult of Mourinho and work until they break. There is no time for fun, no time for family, only time for work and success. He made a point at the start of the tour that he had missed his own daughter’s graduation to be there. He expects all his players to make similar sacrifices.

Contrast how Mourinho has handled the birth of Martial’s child, with how Gareth Southgate managed the same situation during the World Cup. Fabian Delph was allowed to leave the tournament for the birth of his third child. He even missed the first knockout round match against Colombia to do so. Southgate handled it in the same way he handled everything, calmly and with a level head. It didn’t disrupt the team and Delph returned to play a part in the later games. It became a nonstory.

But family matters aren’t the only things that Mourinho has attempted to get players to ignore. He regularly demands that players play through injuries for him. Even on this tour, Eric Bailly apparently played with an injury against Liverpool. Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo have also done it in the past. Players who have refused to play due to being worried about an injury have been publicly lambasted by the manager.

It’s all well and good for a manager to go after a player because he didn’t track back or didn’t follow his instructions. But this was a young man doing the right thing. A young man putting his family above all else. At the end of the day, football is a job to Martial. His relationship with his family will far outlast any relationship with Manchester United.

Anthony Martial has nothing to apologise for or feel guilty about for leaving the US tour. The manager crossed a line when he attacked The Frenchman and the club should feel ashamed for siding with Mourinho and handing the player a fine. This wouldn’t have happened under Ferguson and it’s doubtful whether any other Premier League manager would have behaved in the same manner. Jose should be ashamed of himself.