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Anthony Martial sends message to Man United teammates ahead of Leeds game

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Anthony Martial has told his Manchester United teammates they need to match the fitness and physicality of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds players on the opening day of the Premier League season.

United welcome their fierce rivals to Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime, when a capacity crowd will return to the stadium for the first time in 17 months.

This was a fixture Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side won 6-2 last season but Leeds are one of the fittest teams in the Premier League and every game against them is a physically demanding test.

They will also have the benefit of having had a more cohesive pre-season than United, who have seen several of their international stars only return in the last couple of weeks.

Martial knows that to come away with three points United will need to be able to match the visitors in terms of their intensity.

“It is going to be a big game, as we are all aware of the intense rivalry between these two great clubs,” he said. “And it is up to us to make a good start to the season and to do so by winning this first match.

“We know them as a team who never stop running, and who usually tend to man-mark one-on-one. It will be down to us to match them physically and get close, and to find the space to be able to hit them with our counter-attacks.”

The Frenchman is likely to start his first game since March, having spent more than four months on the sidelines with a knee injury.

Edinson Cavani’s delayed return to pre-season training will give Martial the chance to stake his claim at centre forward, but he admits he’s not yet fully fit himself having only recently returned to training.

“I am feeling a lot better after five long months. Getting back together with the team and training with them again, I really feel a great improvement,” he told the United website.

“I am going to need a few more weeks to reach my top fitness levels, and I’m really happy just now to have made my return to training.

“To be honest, I was really happy to start [against Everton] after those long months without playing, it was tremendous to get back out there, especially with the fans and the win, brilliant.

“With the season I had last year, and the niggling injuries I had which prevented me from being at 100 per cent, I’ve since put in my best prep work, so as to be sure of coming back in the best form I can,” he added. “And I hope I can get to my full fitness level as quickly as possible now, to set me up for a great season this time round.

“I hope to avoid injury, of course, and to be really ready and in top shape fitness-wise, to be able to have a great season, and win some trophies.”

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