Manchester United have been handed a huge double boost with Anthony Martial set to sign a new four-and-a-half year contract in the next 48 hours and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar ruled out of both legs of their Champions League last-16 tie through injury.
Martial has finally agreed to a new deal that will commit him to United until June 2024 after almost a year of protracted talks. He would have been out of contract at the end of next season.
Philippe Lamboley, Martial’s agent, released a statement last June saying his client wanted to quit Old Trafford and Jose Mourinho, the former United manager with whom the France forward fell out, was willing to sell the player and use the money to bring in Brazil forward Willian from Chelsea.
But Mourinho’s wish was vetoed by the United hierarchy, who considered Martial to be integral to their long-term plans.
Yet even around the time of Mourinho’s sacking last month, Lamboley was still expressing pessimism about Martial’s prospects of signing a new contract after claiming United’s offer was “very far” from the 23-year-old’s demands.
However, there was a significant breakthrough in negotiations in recent weeks, which coincided with United’s upturn under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Martial’s key role in the attack, and the club is due to make an announcement by Friday or earlier. United’s focus will then turn to trying to secure David De Gea’s long-term future.
The Spain goalkeeper is happy to stay at Old Trafford but wants a huge increase on his existing £240,000 a week contract, which expires at the end of next season, to offer greater parity with Chile forward Alexis Sanchez and reflect his status as the club’s outstanding player over the past five years.
Solskjaer’s eight-match winning streak came to an end on Tuesday night when United were forced to come from two goals down against Burnley to draw 2-2 but there was more good news for the Norwegian on Wednesday with PSG confirming Neymar will be out for around 10 weeks with a foot injury.
The Brazil forward injured his fifth metatarsal in a Coupe de France match against Strasbourg last week and left the field in tears. He has now been ruled out until early April following consultation with a series of “world-renowned” medical experts.
It means the world’s most expensive footballer will miss the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against United at Old Trafford on Febuary 12 as well as the return game in Paris on March 6.
Neymar has scored 20 goals in 23 appearances for PSG this term although the French champions will still pose a huge threat in attack with Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani to call upon and the likes of Julian Draxler or United old boy Angel Di Maria likely to come in for Neymar.
ALSO READ: Man Utd offer one-year extension to Young
Paul Pogba’s fitness will be assessed before United face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday with the United midfielder carrying a knock after several heavy challenges from Burnley players, including Ashley Barnes. He was seen limping out of Old Trafford.
Pogba praised United’s late fightback, with Victor Lindelof scoring a 92nd-minute equaliser after the Frenchman’s penalty, but the midfielder believes they can ill afford to start sluggishly against Leicester.
“We should have started like [we finished] and the game would be different,” he said. “We can learn from our mistakes and next time I think we need to start the game differently.
“We cannot look too good, you know we have to play. Like the manager says – keep being humble. It’s not that we didn’t [stay humble] but you have to start strong, you have to be aggressive because they were in the first half. I think we played like we were winning maybe 1-0 or 2-0 and that’s why the result was like that. The comeback was positive but the result was disappointing.”