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Anthony Martial; a phoenix from the flames?

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial played 90 minutes in the 2-0 victory over Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. United extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 23 matches, which is great form. Martial is a player who last season had shown why Louis van Gaal paid £36 million to sign the player, but this season, a mixture of off-field problems, playing for a new manager and a loss of form on the pitch, Martial maybe suffering from second season syndrome. Sunday marker Martial’s 50th league appearance for United, also his 25th goal for the club, which means that United will have to pay £8.5 million as part of the add-on fee which had been stipulated by AS Monaco when the Frenchman left the club. Sunday’s match showed the Martial of last season; quick, great ability on the ball with an eye for a goal, and even an assist.

Ahead of the visit of Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa League last Thursday, Martial had been criticised by Jose Mourinho with the manager saying the Frenchman had great potential, could fit in the team under him, but he needed to do more to fit into the team and impress the manager. Mourinho’s criticism has seen him being picked on by the media, who always seem to have an axe to grind with United, pundits and former players. Criticism is something that players will need to hear, or they will think they are doing everything right 100% of the time. Criticism helps to improve people, it is not always an intention to be nasty or bully someone, this politically correct world we live in will have you believe that criticism is a form of bullying, when in fact, it is pretty normal. Mourinho just wants the best for his team, and that is what he should strive for. Mourinho spoke after the 2-0 victory over Burnley on the performance of the Frenchman, saying:

“Yes, it was very good. With the ball, without the ball, in the middle of two strong central midfielders, without anyone behind him because we had no No10.”

Martial is a player with the world at his feet. This season will be a learning curve for him. Nothing runs to plan 100% of the time, if things did go to play all the time, I think it would be a very boring world we will live in. Last season, Martial made 51 appearances for United, scoring 17 goals and a further eight assists. This season, Martial has made 34 appearances, scoring only eight goals, a further seven assists, which from playing on the left-wing more often than not, is not a bad goals and assists tally. With injuries to Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, among others, the attacking presence of Manchester United still needs to be a threat, especially if United are to get through Manchester City and Swansea City in the Premier League, before a trip to Spain to face Celta de Vigo in the semi-final first leg of the UEFA Europa League. Between both legs, United face a trip to Arsenal, before entertaining the Spanish side at Old Trafford, which is followed by a trip to Tottenham Hotspur, then to Southampton before entertaining Crystal Palace at home on the final day of the Premier League season.

Presuming that Martial will keep his place in the team, taking into account the rotation needed to keep him and other players fresh and the fact Mourinho has hinted that he sees the Europa League with more importance over the Premier League as there is a trophy up for grabs; United need to be challenging for trophies. Injuries aside, United do still have the power to get the much-needed results to maintain their position in both the Premier League, also pushing for a Europa League final in a month’s time. Martial will not be a player that will be given his chance, and he will need to ensure he takes those chances. Goals are needed, and providing United face City as they did Chelsea just over a week ago, anything could happen – hopefully, a United victory. That will give United a much stronger position in the league, setting them up for a clash with Swansea at Old Trafford, which should be another victory, putting United in a better standing in the league and with more confidence ahead of the tricky trip to Spain.

Martial has everything he needs to be one of the stars in the team; he showed that last season. If he continues his development, not only will he be costing Manchester United more money, which is not something the club will be unhappy about, as it will mean he is doing what he needs to do on the pitch. The fact United still have the likes of Jesse Lingard, who may not be a fans favourite, but still has a lot to offer his team, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who seems to have found his feet and Marcus Rashford, who is still very much the rising star this season. Wayne Rooney is a player that can still offer something, despite it not being the same as it would have been five or six years ago. Five players, at least in an attacking sense, could find themselves working together and pulling the strings for Manchester United over the next month, which could see United finish in the top four of the Premier League, but also secure their second major trophy of the season, all being good, of course. United will be boosted

United could also be boosted with the impending return of Juan Mata, who feels he could return before the end of the season, which may not necessarily give Martial any problems, but will strengthen a much-weakened attacking line just when it might be needed.

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