Neither Paul Pogba
nor Anthony Martial
are men for the extremities of tough love.
Neither Paul Pogba nor Anthony Martial particularly enjoyed playing for Jose Mourinho
With Pogba, the statistics detail that neatly. More goals (eight) and more assists (five) under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in seven weeks than the previous four months.
Martial, however, has by no means smashed through a ceiling where numbers are concerned. He already had eight for the season by the time Mourinho was sacked.
Rather, it is the demeanour that has altered. That was evident at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon, the winger previewing Manchester United's Champions League date with Paris Saint-Germain.
Martial turned translator for his interim manager when questions in French flew in his direction and looked engaged during the brief press conference. He looked comfortable – certainly more comfortable than we have seen before.
Both of these France internationals feel the benefits of geniality. Solskjaer has spoken to both privately, with the message the same as it is publicly. There is no great science to any of this from a man-management perspective.
Solskjaer – like all other United fans – believes Pogba should dominate games and has told him as such. Solskjaer – like all other United fans – believes Martial has the potential to score plenty more goals consistently from the left side.
Pogba has since dominated games. The challenge for Martial now is to go on a little run. He has two in his last three appearances, including that stunner which evoked memories of Cristiano Ronaldo away at Fulham.
POGBA AND MOURINHO IN 2018-19
POGBA AND SOLSKJAER IN 2018-19
'A goal that can only be scored by a few special talents like him,' Juan Mata said. 'What a player. I just love Anthony. The better he plays, the more we win. I always say the same, but it's true: give the ball to Anthony and we will win.'
Martial is clearly liberated by Solskjaer. 'He is asking me to attack more,' he said. 'That is my job after all. To make the difference to be more decisive.'
The 23-year-old is aware more is expected of him: 'Things are working out well for the other attackers and I hope we can continue to be as effective.
'We have got a coach who has different intentions and we are trying to do what he asks. Perhaps it is easier to play this style of football and not the style of football he (Mourinho) asked.'
Martial has had two personal issues this season. The first saw him leave United's pre-season tour of America to witness the birth of his son and then not return – against the wishes of Mourinho. He started just one Premier League game before the end of September.
The second came at Christmas, when he missed a flight home from Paris and was late for the squad's meeting before the Boxing Day clash against Huddersfield.
Martial was dropped by Solskjaer, who publicly maintained that was because of illness, before a line was drawn and he was reinstated for the next game. Swift action, move on.
Whether those watching back in France have moved on from misconceptions about both Martial and Pogba remains to be seen.
MARTIAL AND MOURINHO IN 2018-19
MARTIAL AND SOLSKJAER IN 2018-19
After all, most polls prior to Pogba's storming World Cup called for Didier Deschamps to drop the central midfielder. And many viewed – or still view – Martial as overpriced. Very few shed tears when Martial did not make the final 23-man squad for Russia.
Yet now perhaps public opinions could turn. Pogba's displays speak for themselves, his running from midfield and end product improving with each passing week. Martial has an opportunity to make that spot on the left his own.
One thing is for certain: Solskjaer will be telling them anything is possible. That is how to reap reactions.