Jose Mourinho says Anthony Martial must improve to earn a regular first-team spot at Man United
And Jose Mourinho admits if he keeps giving first team outings to the France striker it would "kill" other players who have been in better form.
Martial was dropped after failing to impress in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool and was not even included in the 18-man match day squad for Manchester United's draw at Stoke on Saturday.
He prompted renewed speculation about his future by going to Paris at the weekend, although that was with his manager's permission.
But Mourinho says Martial will have to play consistently well to earn a regular place because he has so many players who can play in the wide positions.
And it is not the first rebuke he has handed out to the £36m former Monaco player this season
"I don't think Martial has lost his focus," he said. "I just think he didn't catch with both hands a big opportunity he had.
Mourinho admits if he keeps giving Martial chances it will 'kill' players who are in better form
"When we spoke about why Memphis Depay was sold we spoke about it being the only position where we have over booking. And we have still five players for these positions. I cannot give to one player chances to play and kill the others. I think I did that [kill] with Memphis by considering him the last option and by not giving him any option.
"With the other guys, I think even you would be here now asking me why Juan Mata is not playing or Marcus Rashford doesn't have a chance or why Jesse Lingard, a national team player, is not playing.
"So this is the reality. We have Rashford, Lingard, Mata, Mkhitaryan and Martial and I cannot give to the same player chance after chance after chance and not considering the effort of the others.
"Anthony played against Liverpool, a big match for us and for him too, and then the next game I went to Mata and Mkhitaryan. This is the situation.
"When I have five players for two positions, I have to praise the good performance and for that I have to take people out of the team. That's simple."
Many people have interpreted Martial's decision to visit Paris when his team-mates were battling at the Britannia as something of a snub to United.
Luke Shaw will face competition to win back his place in United's starting line-up
But Mourinho says he has no problem with any player not in his match day squad going away for the weekend.
He said: "We don't have many days off. I like to give the players some freedom to choose if they need a weekend off when they are not selected.
"If for him it was better to go to Paris, that's completely fine. For the FA Cup tie with Wigan this weekend, if nothing happens, in terms on injury, I'm going to play [No 2 goalkeeper] Sergio Romero and put [No 3] Joel Periera on the bench.
"David De Gea will be free and if he wants to go to Spain and enjoy two days, he has to go. I give the players this freedom of choice so no problem at all with Anthony to go to Paris."
While Martial faces intense competition for his place, Mourinho says the same applies to Luke Shaw, whose season has been disrupted by injury.
Shaw has not played since November 30 but although he is finally fit again will have a battle to win back the left back role from either Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian or Marcos Rojo.
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"Luke is not working with limitations so now he's ready to play," he said. "But it's a position where we have other options too. It's one of the positions where they have to fight, they have to compete, they have to show quality and stability in their performances to be in the team."
Both Martial and Shaw are set to figure at Hull tonight where Mourinho – sporting a new cropped haircut – hopes to celebrate his 54th birthday by guiding United, 2-0 up from the first leg, – into the League Cup final.
Meanwhile Mourinho will watch with some interest any punishment the FA hand out to Arsene Wenger for his push on fourth official Anthony Taylor on Sunday.
Mourinho received a one-match stadium ban for going to referee Jon Moss's room at West Ham in October 2015 but did not touch the official.
And his No 2 Rui Faria received a six-game stadium ban for abusive language towards an official in May 2014 again after no physical contact with an official.
He was reluctant to comment publicly on the Wenger case but said: "I never pushed the referee so I don't have a comparison. So I have no idea. No, I cannot comment."