LONDON - Anthony Martial has defended his decision to go AWOL from Manchester United’s tour of the US for the birth of his baby boy and told the club that family comes first.
Martial confirmed he will return to Manchester today having not been seen for more than a week since leaving United’s training base in LA against the wishes of manager Jose Mourinho to fly to Paris.
The 22-year-old France winger has not trained for eight days and could face a fine of £180,000, the equivalent of two weeks’ wages, if United decide that the unauthorised absence constitutes a breach of his contract.
Mourinho called on Martial to return to America after his partner Melanie Da Cruz gave birth to their son, Swan. But after ending the tour with a 2-1 win over Real Madrid in Miami, the United boss admitted that he didn’t know whether Martial would rejoin his team-mates this week.
The player responded yesterday by tweeting: "Thank you all for your posts. My little Swan is fine, for the mom it was harder but thanks to God she’s better now. Sorry but my family will always come first... Back tomorrow in Manchester."
Martial’s future at Old Trafford now hangs in the balance after his decision to leave the tour stretched his relationship with Mourinho to breaking point. The United boss wants to sell the forward before the August 9 transfer deadline and, three years after arriving from Monaco in a £36million deal, Martial wants to go. He left The Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills last week and made it clear to friends that he had no intention of returning to camp.
After United’s 4-1 defeat by Liverpool in Michigan on Saturday, Mourinho called on Martial to come back. "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," said the Portuguese coach.
Merci à tous pour vos messages. Mon petit Swan va bien, pour la maman ça était plus difficile mais Grâce à Dieu elle va mieux maintenant. Desolé mais ma famille passera toujours avant Tout... Retour demain à Manchester 💪🏾
The United players who went on tour have been given Thursday off. They will re-assemble at Carrington on Friday. Mourinho already faces the prospect of being without a number of first-team players for the start of the season but has been boosted by the news that Romelu Lukaku is cutting short his holiday to help the club.
Having fired Belgium to third place in the World Cup, Lukaku will return to training three days early along with England duo Marcus Rashford and Phil Jones so he can be available for the first match of the season against Leicester next Friday.
"We start the Premier League in eight days and these are the players that we have plus Victor Lindelof, who started training two days ago, Marcus Rashford, Jones and Lukaku because they gave to the group and to the team three days of their holidays," said Mourinho following United’s win over Madrid.
"They are coming back three days early to try to 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."