Anthony Martial – Where Did It All Go Wrong?


“Oh Yes! Welcome to Manchester United, Anthony Martial” roared Martin Tyler as he reacted to Anthony Martial’s debut goal for the reds. Few Manchester United fans will forget the scenes when the £36 million signing announced himself to the Stretford End by ghosting passed Liverpool’s defence from the left-wing and tucking the ball away in the bottom right-hand corner. During the 2015/2016 season, Martial went on to score 17 goals in his debut season, instantly establishing himself as a United fan favourite. Martial finished that season as United’s top goal scorer, he was a reliable player for Louis van Gaal.

The following season, under Jose Mourinho, Martial made less of an impact scoring nine goals whilst starting only 28 games in all competitions for United. The arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimović pushed Marcus Rashford out to the wing. Mourinho favoured the Wythenshawe youngster’s hunger and determination over Martial for the majority of games in the 2016/2017 season.

This season was Anthony Martial’s third season in the North West. With only an FA Cup final to play, Martial has started 27 games and scored 12 times this season in all competitions. The arrival of Alexis Sanchez has left Martial competing with another quality player for the same position. It is evident to see that Sanchez is a player who gives 100% even if things are not going his way, which Mourinho clearly admires.

Some will argue that Mourinho is holding Martial back but the truth is that anytime Mourinho has given Martial an opportunity since the arrival of Sanchez, Martial has failed to impress. Like many Manchester United supporters, Mourinho has spoken out on Martial’s attitude. Martial earned a start away to Brighton and Hove Albion due to Romelu Lukaku’s recent injury. United went on to lose that game leaving Mourinho frustrated in his post-match press conference.

“Maybe now you will not ask me why A, B and C do not play so much. People always ask: ‘Why always Lukaku?’ Well, now they know why always Lukaku, and why always this player and why always that player. We are probably not as good as people think we are individually.”

Mourinho is a manager who demands everything and more from his players. Players such as Alexis Sanchez, Nemanja Matic, Ashley Young and even Antonio Valencia have lacked quality at times this season but they are regular starters regardless as they never lack the effort. Many times, this season Martial was caught looking like he didn’t want to be on the pitch. It is down to this and not Mourinho that has left him playing the role of a squad player.

When Martial was at his best under Van Gaal, he was also playing in a defensive team, he did not have the freedom some say he needs. Rather than freedom the biggest difference from playing under Van Gaal and Mourinho was squad competition. Van Gaal’s United lacked numbers going forward whereas Mourinho brought in Zlatan Ibrahimović and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (another player who could not show the required desire to succeed at Old Trafford).

Then this season, Mourinho brought in Lukaku and Sanchez. Competing against these players, Martial has failed to nail down a regular starting spot in United’s eleven.

This summer there will be numerous articles suggesting Martial is joining other teams. However, there has been no solid evidence yet but it is hard to see where Anthony Martial fits in at United next season. If Martial stays in Manchester he will be competing against Alexis Sanchez who has a big season expected of him in 2018/2019, an ever-improving Jesse Lingard, a favoured Romelu Lukaku, one of United’s most technically gifted players in Juan Mata and the man who has played most minutes under Mourinho, Marcus Rashford.

It would not be unusual either if United brought in a winger to solve their crossing issues on the right flank. It is difficult to see where a player with Martial’s mindset fits into this team as a starter. Unless he can prove his doubters wrong Martial will continue his squad player role at United if he stays another season.

If Martial wishes to leave United, there would be no shortage of suitors. Unlike Martial’s attitude, his quality is not questionable, even in tough spells he has shown flashes of brilliance. The latest rumours surrounding the French man suggests possible moves to Juventus or even Premier League rivals Chelsea. Perhaps a move to a club where he would be guaranteed to start every game would be best for Martial.

Another alternative to save Martial’s career could be to go on loan. Yet again there would be no shortage of clubs who would want to take Martial on loan. The idea of a loan came up before with Inter Milan and Wolfsburg both interested. If the forward went on loan at clubs like these he would almost be guaranteed to start week in week out. If he could regain his form and develop a decent goal tally, Mourinho and United would have to sit up and take notice.

Over the next three months, expect to read many transfer rumours surrounding Anthony Martial, many will be weak and some will be solid. In truth, nobody knows what the future holds for Martial. If he rediscovers his form will it be in Manchester? It would be a shame to see a player who possesses such talent, leave the Theatre of Dreams but at the end of the day, Mourinho is clearly a manager who carries no passengers.

Written by Shane Purcell

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