Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has seemingly gone from strength to strength this season, scoring 21 goals for his club, which is his best season yet in his five-year career thus far. Having his number nine shirt back in his possession has been a good influence for the player, as wearing this shirt he had his best season at the club, before this one.
The Frenchman scored his 21st goal for the club on Monday evening at Old Trafford as United drew 2-2 with Southampton, which was a costly match as the visitors equalised in added time, stopping United from taking all three points, which would have risen them to third in the league table at the time, instead they still sit in fifth place.
Martial has flourished as the main striker at the club this season, flanked by Marcus Rashford on the left, Martial’s former position under Jose Mourinho, and Daniel James on the right, before Mason Greenwood announced himself on the world stage. Martial’s performances this season have seemingly shown Mourinho up after comments made when he managed the club between May 2016 and December 2018.
Martial saw his number nine shirt handed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic upon his arrival at the club in the summer of 2016, with the Frenchman donning the number 11 shirt which was recently vacated by Ryan Giggs. However, the Frenchman was happy with the number nine and his performances started to drop significantly and he looked unhappy. Mourinho suggested that Martial wanted to play up front for the wrong reasons, saying:
“I know that Martial likes to play as a No.9, sometimes, I think for the right reasons, sometimes I think for the wrong reasons, but I know he likes to play as a No.9.”
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the manager of the club, replacing Mourinho, the Norwegian has always seen the Frenchman as a striker, last summer giving him the responsibility of leading the line and once again donning his favoured number nine shirt at the club. Martial has addressed this, highlighting where Solskjaer has succeeded and Mourinho failed. The Frenchman said:
“He [Ole Gunnar Solskjaer] sent me a message, he said ‘do you want to take your no.9 shirt back?’.
“I straight up said yes! I said yes and he told me ‘now it’s up to you to show me [that you deserve it] every time you’re on the pitch’.”
Speaking of his role as the striker in the team, which is the position that Solskjaer has cast him in for the entire season, unless he has been rested, Martial cast some shade upon Mourinho, who is seemingly on the decline having not taken Tottenham Hotspur in the right direction this season. I guess it shows that Mourinho did not have the people management skills that Solskjaer does at the club. Martial concluded by saying:
“It’s different, for example on the wing I have more opportunities to dribble past players, to make the difference while as a 9 I’m here to score and I have scored more goals as a striker than as a winger so it’s a good sign for me.
“That’s the position [striker] where I was shaped & developed in at the academy when I was young, that’s where I feel at my best.”