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Anthony Martial
English Premier League Football

Can Anthony Martial emerge as Manchester United’s talisman?

Anthony Martial

The arrival of Anthony Martial on the deadline day of the 2015 summer transfer window was subjected to heavy criticism by the English media, even before he had kicked the ball. However, the young Frenchman announced himself at Old Trafford in one of the most iconic debut goals against bitter rivals Liverpool, with defender Martin Skrtel bearing first-hand witness.

Martial is currently representing Manchester United in his fifth season at the club, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær at the helm. Let’s take a look a closer look at his stint so far, considering the massive expectations of the fans who hail him as the club’s next big superstar.

Converting Potential into Performance:

Martial undoubtedly possesses the right set of tools and skills to make it big. However, he is yet to deliver on promise. The Frenchman made a pretty good start with 11 goals in his debut season. The concern remains that going into his fifth season, that number remains his best tally yet. 

Traditionally being a Number 9, the purchases of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku didn’t do the young star much good. Martial was either sidelined or was forced to play wide in their presence.

Just as he began to settle in and find his feet as the man upfront, Alexis Sanchez came in carrying a lot of stakes. Sanchez was slotted straight into Martial’s position and the Frenchman’s performances began to dip again.

When he’s on the pitch, he offers the team a unique bite upfront as reiterated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer several times. It’s important for a footballer to prove himself every time he takes the field and not just once every now and then. Every time his game begins to catch momentum, injuries or inconsistencies on and off the pitch have brought it to a halt. Even this season, he’s featured in only half of the games United has played.

Anthony Martial

Performances so Far:

With Lukaku and Sanchez shipped out and only Rashford to partner him up front, Martial is once again the line leader. He started off with a bright spark with 2 goals in 3 games before being sidelined with an injury. He scored at Partizan (home and away) and Norwich after his return to make it 5 goals in 7 games this season. That makes it a goal involvement every 105 minutes (before Partizan), one of the best numbers in Europe.

  • 3 goals in 4 starts since return from injury.
  • United average a goal per game more when Martial starts
  • Solskjaer enjoys a 71% win rate in the premier league with Martial in the team sheet.

The above stats underline how crucial the Frenchman is to the side and how exciting his skills can be.

Fate in his own hands:

The Manchester United board has been accused of being very timid which is true to a large extent. However, when it came to the Martial or Mourinho tussle, the board chose the player. Ole has clearly reposed his faith in Martial as the main man, and put him in his preferred position.  

It was often debated if Martial was suited to Mourinho’s style of play. This created doubts over the player’s future. Mourinho fuelled the flames more, and somehow managed to churn out better results by sidelining Martial.

Ole has taken the contrasting route with 11 wins out of 18 games when Martial and Rashford have featured together. Martial playing upfront also means Rashford playing out wide which works out better for both of them. This was certainly noticed during the unrewarding grind Rashford put up top in the absence of his French compatriot.

Areas to Improve:

Like most young players, he has his critics. It is argued that Martial is full of talent but will never be able to reach the heights of Mohamed Salah because of his poor work ethic. It is noticeable at times in the game when United are in high press or need to up the tempo.

The absence of creativity in behind in the likes of Paul Pogba also hampers his chances. Instead of using it as a possible reason, it’s also an opportunity for the player to up his game and transform his skills.

Martial undoubtedly is hugely talented and glimpses of that are clearly visible even when he is not in his prime. Ole’s style of fast attacking play also supplements his style of play.

Martial’s pace, dribbling and finishing present him a generational chance to go down as a Manchester United legend. The Frenchman’s fate rests in his own hands. It is important for Martial to use the luck that has followed him thus far to repay the faith of all involved.

All patience has a limit, especially where there is success and money involved at a club like Manchester United. What better time to be a hero than when a team is in crisis. Only Martial and time will tell if he can be the leader that this crisis throws up and when he does get going, it’s time to be signing “Tony Martial Scores Again” !!!!!

Written By: Keerthan Chandra.


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