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Playing Devil’s Advocate: Why Anthony Martial is ready to lead the line for Manchester United next season

Manchester United have been linked with an endless number of strikers already, most notably Torino’s Andrea Belotti, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. All excellent strikers who would add world class ability to Manchester United’s squad in a position where it is needed, it is widely believed that one of these three forwards, if not two, will be joining the club this summer.

However, this does a massive injustice to the current strikers at the club, both of whom are young, extremely talented, and have stepped up whenever given the chance over the course of their United careers. Marcus Rashford fits the bill for the type of player United is looking for, but even more developed is Anthony Martial, a player who has been angling for this opportunity since his debut.

Belotti, Lukaku, and Morata could all prove to be superb signings for Manchester United, adding a new dimension to Jose Mourinho’s side. However, due to his ability in front of goal, all-round footballing ability, and massive upside, Anthony Martial could be an equally good striker for United.

Martial seized his chance immediately from the moment he joined United, scoring 17 goals and nine assists in his debut season despite the fact Louis van Gaal didn’t think he’d play many matches during his managerial tenure at United. Involved in 26 goals largely from the left-wing, imagine how many he could create if deployed in his preferred central position for the entire season.

While his numbers, and playing time, dwindled over the course of the 2016/17 season under Mourinho, Martial still (quantitatively) shone, involving himself in 16 goals despite playing only 2500 minutes, and again, mostly from the left-wing. That equates to a goal every 156 minutes, one of the best tallies of at United this season.

The best part about Martial’s goal tally is the fact that his game isn’t even about goals and assists. Showing somewhat of a balance between Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s ability to involve himself in United’s build-up play and Marcus Rashford’s ability to run behind, United wouldn’t be missing any attributes that seemed absent whenever Rashford or Ibrahimovic wasn’t leading the line.

However, Martial’s best attribute is his ability on the ball, with dribbling skills comparable to Eden Hazard and the body to support himself playing as a lone striker. In other words, Martial virtually guarantees involvement in at least 20 goals, while offering a variety of attributes on the ball that most orthodox strikers don’t have in their game at all.

That exact attribute is the reason why Martial’s upside is so important, as he could easily develop into an all-action striker who could be involved in 40 goals a season as United’s main man. Barely 20 years of age, he was involved in 26 goals from the left-wing, and fell just short of 20 in a bit-part role in his second season; what could he do with some consistency and minutes, even before reaching his prime?

Lukaku, Morata, and Belotti are proven entities that will cost a lot of money and likely score a lot of goals. But, if a deal can’t be struck, it wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that this Frenchman could be United’s main man next season. His scoring record is merely a supplement to his overall play, and this unique style gives him huge upside as he moves into his 20s. The three aforementioned strikers could offer a lot to United next season, but in the long run, Martial may be an even better choice.

Written by Aaron Moniz

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