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Van Gaal: Anthony Martial can play in four positions

After another impressive display on the wing by Anthony Martial, manager Louis van Gaal praised the 19-year-old’s versatility, stating that he can play in four different positions. Van Gaal played the young Frenchman on the left side during United’s 3-0 victory over Everton on the weekend and did the same in the 1-1 draw at CSKA Moscow on Wednesday. Martial scored the lone goal for the Red Devils but also conceded the penalty that led to the opening goal of the match for Moscow when the £36 million man batted down a ball with his hand. Van Gaal called the play “stupid” but had praise for Martial afterwards saying:

“He [Martial] can play, in my opinion, four positions. He can play at No. 7, as a right-winger, No. 11, the left winger, the striker’s position and also at No. 10, I believe. But he has played in Monaco always in the left-winger position.

“He can play at No. 7, as a right-winger, No. 11, the left winger, the striker’s position and also at No. 10, I believe. But he has played in Monaco always in the left-winger position.”

It is great to see that Martial is versatile and that he is capable to play in such a variety of positions, but it is strange to take him out of the No. 9 position after playing so well and scoring four times from that position. In the match against Everton, Martial played on the left and did a great job. However, Wayne Rooney looked isolated at times and then again against Moscow after Van Gaal kept Martial wide, Rooney up top and Ander Herrera in behind. Another change to the lineup was the omission of Juan Mata and the addition of Jesse Lingard, who was substituted on for Mata at halftime of the match at Everton on Saturday. Van Gaal spoke about Lingard’s role at United, saying:

“Lingard’s competitor is Juan Mata and his competitor is also, for example, Ander Herrera or Wayne Rooney or, when he is played on the left, because he can also play on the left, his competitor was Memphis [Depay]. So it’s not easy to come in.”

Martial bagged his fifth goal of the year in the match in Moscow, but this time scored from the wing. It is extremely important for him to have this versatility to play on the wing and as a forward because if he were to face competition in one position, he can move to another. In this case, Herrera had one of his best games in a red shirt against Everton while playing in the No. 10 role. Rooney, at the moment, can not be dropped because of his captaincy, and Martial is playing so well that he was the one who had to make the big adjustment and go to the wing while Rooney pushed into the No. 9 role, keeping Herrera on the field.

This all ties into the consistent team that Van Gaal needs to play. If he continues to switch players in and out and alter the starting eleven every match, the connections between the players will be lost and the team will suffer. The back-line has to be the most consistent starting group, but the forwards and midfielders need to be as well. Competition for spots will make it more interesting and can help get the best out of players, but if Van Gaal is changing the lineup every week, it will only hurt the team. Having versatile players such as, Martial, Mata and Rooney will benefit the team in the long-run. With a giant upcoming match on Sunday against Manchester City in the Manchester derby, United need to put the best team possible on the field in order to beat a league-leading City.

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