Anthony Martial is subject to a lot of attention heading into the January transfer window. The Frenchman has already been linked to West Ham United on a loan spell for the remainder of the season, which is a pathetic notion and one which questions Slaven Bilić possibly being out of his depth at the club currently challenging to escape from a possible relegation battle this season. Martial has now been linked to La Liga side Sevilla, a move that also looked unlikely, but now with the comments from the players representative, it seems like the move could be favourable for the player, according to the said representative, or it could be used as a bargaining tool to get Martial back into the starting XI at Manchester United again, something that I do not think would happen without the player improving.
Martial signed for United on deadline day in the 2015/16 season, signing for a £36 million, which could rise to £61.5 million. Martial was written off by the media, but almost immediately proved that they were wrong after he scored his first goal for the club on his debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford around a fortnight after he made the move from AS Monaco. At the end of the season, Martial made 51 appearances in all competitions, scoring 17 goals and assisting a further eight, which was a great start under manager Louis van Gaal. Martial helped his side win the Emirates FA Cup that season, his first trophy at the Old Trafford club and hopefully the first of many. Van Gaal was sacked as the manager days later, with Jose Mourinho replacing the Dutchman. Martial would see himself playing on the left-wing more often, despite it being the role he played most of the time under Van Gaal.
Recently, Martial, despite being fit, has not featured for Mourinho’s side all that often, making 17 appearances in all competitions this season, starting in only 12 of those matches. The Frenchman has scored four goals, assisting in a further three, which is not great but still shows he has something to offer Mourinho in his new-look Manchester United side, which is being built to dominate domestically and in Europe once again. Martial was a substitute in the 3-1 victory over Sunderland at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, as was Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored a scorpion-kicked goal, a rather spectacular one at that. Martial’s representative, Philippe Lamboley, has spoken about the players offer from La Liga side Sevilla, a team which Manchester City player Samir Nasri is currently finding his form. Lamboley, speaking to Spanish radio station ABCdeSevilla, reported by Sky Sports, said:
“We are studying the Sevilla option in detail. Sevilla are a very good club, are in a good position in La Liga, play in the Champions League and have a great coach. That’s all I can tell you.”
I presume that Martial and his representative are unhappy about the player’s lack of playing time this season, making 17 appearances in all competitions, 12 of them starts, but at the end of the day, if a manager is not improving the player, what is the point of them being there. Martial has the talent to play in the best leagues in the world, of which the Premier League is one of the most competitive, leaving that behind and effectively becoming known as a failure may not be the best reputation for the Frenchman. Who knows, he might take La Liga by storm, should he leave United, being touted as one of the best players in the world, of which he is already the best U23 player in Europe. In my mind, Martial needs to look at Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a player who back in September, looked out of his depths at United, but Mourinho turned that around, sidelined him and brought his talent and determination out for all the world to see. Martial could well become the same success story, should he remain at United.
Mourinho spoke about Martial, who has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford during the January transfer window, suggesting that the Frenchman needs to improve, much like Mkhitaryan, who was put through similar paces earlier in the season, not arising as the player Manchester United need on the right-wing. The Portuguese manager said;
“Anthony is very, very young. People forget that and last season Manchester United played completely differently. He was basically playing up front. The team had lots of passive ball possession, just waiting to put it into space for Anthony to go and score a goal. This season is more difficult. He needs a little bit of time to improve.”
Speaking about Mkhitaryan, who was put through a similar period as Martial faces now, Mourinho said;
“Every player is different. I had this season a situation that was more difficult than Anthony – Mkhitaryan. Mkhitaryan was completely open and understood the difference between me and other coaches he had. There is a difference between the demands of the Premier League and the Ukrainian League, or the Bundesliga – a completely different philosophy of play. And he worked a lot without playing, but he worked a lot to try to reach the level.”
Martial is a talented player. At 21, he still has a way to go in order to prove himself, but it heading in the right direction. I feel that if he left United, despite the club and the manager not being interested in him being allowed to leave, even on loan for the remainder of the season, to defy that and leave could be the biggest mistake he will ever make. Martial would be seen as a player who literally gave up, left for an easier league, one who could maybe not cut it in the Premier League. Having that label attached to him at an early age could do more damage than good, whether he arose as a top player in La Liga or elsewhere for the remainder of the season. Martial needs to stay at Manchester United, improve himself, fight for his place and let Mourinho, who clearly knows what he is doing, build a Manchester United team capable of emerging from their dark period and challenge on all fronts once again.