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Zabaleta feels sorry for Martial and Rashford: They're always tracking back!

12:14 GMT+3 12/11/2018
Anthony Martial Manchester United 2018-19
The West Ham full-back has suggested the Man Utd forwards are being curtailed in their attacking efforts by Jose Mourinho's defensive philosophy

Former Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta has admitted that he feels sorry for Manchester United attackers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford because of the amount of defensive work they are expected to do by Jose Mourinho.

Both players struggled to make an impact during United’s 3-1 derby defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and the Argentine is of the opinion that this is in part due to the restrictive nature of Mourinho’s game plan.

Speaking to Sky Sports after City’s victory, West Ham's Zabaleta said: “I think this is Mourinho’s philosophy. We’ve seen this at Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

“When a manager has to convince players to play in the way the manager wants to play, it's simple. Some players will enjoy it more and others will enjoy it less.

“When you look at Martial, when you look at [Marcus] Rashford, they’re just always tracking full-backs rather than just attack and they just couldn’t in one-on-one situations. 

“And I think if I’m in their position it must be hard not to be an attacking team and play in the final third and always tracking back full-backs.”

Martial, in particular, has been in fine form of late, scoring in his last five appearances for United, including a penalty at the Etihad, but for the most part was unable to replicate the vibrancy of his recent performances.

Zabaleta also lifted the lid on a conversation he had with Martial during West Ham's 3-1 victory over United back in September.

He said: “‘Of course, when you play City, who dominate possession, you’ll suffer, but when you play against other teams with less quality then maybe it's different.

“We’re West Ham and we played Man Utd a few weeks ago and we felt this.

“I was making overlapping runs and Martial was just tracking me back and at some point he went ‘How old are you?’ – I felt like I can play another 10 years! 

“He made me feel young but I felt bad for him because he was just tracking me back all the time.”

Sunday’s defeat saw Mourinho’s side fall 12 points behind their local rivals after 12 matches, with United now lying eight in the Premier League table.