Maguire explains Covid problems as United get tough on Martial loan

Eric Bailly has flown back from Ivory Coast to rejoin Manchester United’s squad, who are still feeling the effects of Covid-19, according to captain Harry Maguire.

ailly (27) was granted permission to prepare early for the Africa Cup of Nations next month, but has been recalled and is in contention to face Burnley at Old Trafford tomorrow.

Victor Lindelof missed Monday’s draw at Newcastle after testing positive for Covid, and Maguire revealed that players are still suffering from the impact of the virus.

United were forced to postpone matches against Brentford and Brighton after the outbreak of coronavirus left them without enough players, leaving them with more than two weeks between matches.

“No 16-day break in the middle of a football season is going to help you,” Maguire said. “The training ground has been shut, half the lads playing [against Newcastle] are recovering from the virus. So, of course, it is not going to help us.

“We’ve had so many positive tests, we’ve had people with symptoms, people without symptoms, it’s been a real mixed bag for everyone at the football club and it’s been a tough time, but you can’t make an excuse for sloppy passes.”

Bailly has not started a Premier League game in more than a month and was allowed to travel to Africa, only to be recalled as United look to cope with their hectic fixture schedule.

Maguire and Raphael Varane struggled at St James’ Park, with the United captain saying the club’s situation over the past fortnight did have a bearing on the performance.

“We’re not going to use it as an excuse, but it has a big impact in the game and how we started,” he said. “In the last 20 minutes when we really wanted to push and squeeze after the equaliser, we ran out of steam, which is understandable.”

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick also did not want to make excuses for the performance, which saw United rescued by a series of saves by David De Gea.

“There still might be some side effects from Covid, but I don’t think we should look for excuses,” Rangnick said.

Meanwhile, Anthony Martial’s suitors have been warned that the want-away United striker will not be leaving Old Trafford on the cheap next month.

United have rejected a loan bid from Sevilla for the France international in an offer that only covered half of his £200,000-a-week wages.

Although sources at Old Trafford said a final decision had still to be taken over whether Martial will be allowed to leave in the winter window, it is thought likely that they will sanction his departure if their full demands are met.

Sevilla and any other interested parties have been told that United will only countenance Martial’s departure on loan if all of his wages are covered and a loan fee is paid.

Martial held talks with Rangnick last week in which the player spelt out his desire to move on in search of regular football.

The 26-year-old joined United from Monaco for £36m when he was 19 in 2015, making him the world’s most expesive teenager at the time.

He has made just two Premier League starts this season and has fallen way down the pecking order, despite the team’s struggle for goals.

United have failed to score more than once in seven of their last nine matches in all competitions and Monday’s dismal 1-1 draw at Newcastle meant they have managed just four goals in as many games since Rangnick took charge.

Martial – who is contracted to United until June 2024 with the option of another year – has returned to full training after injury but was left out of the squad against Newcastle. He has not featured since the 2-0 Champions League win away to Villarreal on November 23.

Rangnick understands Martial’s situation but was clear that he will not be permitted to leave unless United’s demands are met.

“We spoke at length,” Rangnick said of last Wednesday’s meeting with the striker at Carrington. “He explained to me he’s been at Manchester United now for the last seven years and he feels it’s the right time for a change, to go somewhere else.

“I think in a way this is understandable, I could follow his thoughts but, on the other hand, it’s also important to see the situation of the club. We have Covid times, we have three competitions in which we still have high ambitions and want to be as successful as we can be.

“So far, as far as I know, there has been no offer from any other club and as long as this is the case he will stay.”

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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