Will Manchester United fan favourite Anthony Martial ever live up to the hype?

The future is definitely an exciting one for Manchester United when you weigh up some of the young, promising players at the club. There are multiple top class prospects at the club, especially in the attacking areas of the field, namely Marcus Rashford, Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes, all young flair attackers filled that came through the youth set up, with potential and talent just waiting to be unleashed.

One man at the club who didn’t come through the United youth set-up is French winger Anthony Martial. The 23-year-old was brought to the club by Louis van Gaal for a hefty £54 million on deadline day in the summer of 2015, a decision which brought with it uncertainty from many United fans regarding the sizeable fee.

Immediately Martial lit up Old Trafford, bringing pace, flair and a fearless attitude to the United side. The questions surrounding the price tag United paid for the former Monaco man were beginning to be answered. He was the main threat for Van Gaal’s side that season, baggingeleven goals in the league and contributed to seven in a winning FA Cup run, including the crucial semi-final goal against Everton that dragged United to the final. He had started to become a fan favourite at the club after a more than impressive debut season in England.

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It was far from ideal for Martial’s game then when Van Gaal was given the boot by United and replaced by Jose Mourinho. Mourinho was not exactly known for his teams playing attacking, exuberant, attractive football, but what he did bring with him was a reputation for getting results on the pitch. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Mourinho has always favoured players that have the willingness to graft and work hard over those with bundles of talent and flair on the ball.

His appearances became less frequent under the new boss and when he was given a chance, often the team’s style of play would not suit him, leading Martial to make quite a few mistakes or have little to no impact on a game. Mourinho was ruthless nonetheless, and more often than not, after an unconvincing performance, he would be left to sit on the bench the following week.

Understandably, this affected the player’s confidence, and while still displaying the odd flash of brilliance, he would often drift out of games for long periods of time. This reflected in his output as well, only managing four Premier League goalsin the Portuguese man’s first campaign in charge, and just one on a run all the way to UEFA Europa League glory.

Things slightly improved the following season, with the winger make a similar number of appearances but contributing to more goals. His league tally increased to nine, while chalking up five assists also. Despite this, it was still obvious to all that Martial had much more in the locker, but was being held back and having his attacking influence curbed to a certain extent by the team’s cautious approach at times and the player not being given an extended run in the team.

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Mourinho was finally given his marching orders in December by the United board and replaced on a caretaker basis by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Many felt Martial’s career potential and expected rise to becoming a world class player had been almost halted for two and a half years while Mourinho was in charge.

Solskjaer has effectively taken the shackles off this team and given exciting players like Martial the green light to express themselves and show their ability. Some of his best moments in a United shirt have come since the change of manager, but despite this, inconsistency remains a problem for the Frenchman. He still holds a real admiration among certain sections of the United fan base, who are hopeful he will prove any doubters wrong and become one of the world’s best.

He is in danger of being left behind by other exciting talents of a similar age, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe just to name a few. The hype surrounding Anthony Martial remains strong, but the questions remain also of whether he will make that step up to the next level as a player and truly live up to the hype.

Written by Jack Grady

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