January Transfer Window: More important than ever?

After a poor start to the 2021/22 season, Manchester United already risk falling too far behind to rekindle any hope of salvaging some kind of success this year. United are quite frankly stuck in a woeful run of form, exacerbated by the toothless performance against Leicester City last weekend

Confidence in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is purportedly retained by board members at the least, but the tide has now mostly shifted in terms of supporters. United seriously risk imploding further if results don’t improve or a long-term solution isn’t found soon, the pressing need for some changes more evident than ever. 

One thing that is abundantly clear is that United need to take advantage of the upcoming January transfer window. Traditionally it’s a rarity for United to buy in this window, however this year with the way the season is panning out there is a growing body of evidence to suggest United really need to both buy and sell this upcoming January. 

Reports of discontent in regard to Donny van de Beek and the lack of game time afforded to Jesse Lingard means it would be detrimental to both club and player to not look for potential buyers, United could really do with the funds so that they can afford to reinvest over January.

It’s still highly unlikely United will spend a huge sum of money in January, however a player in the region of £30-50 million is attainable but most likely on the provision that someone from the club is sold for a decent fee. When clubs lay out the transfer budget for the season most teams don’t factor in the January Window, changes to the squad mid-season can be disruptive in nature. 

However, when injury strikes, or a season doesn’t pan out the way it was intended to, this normally barren and stable period can turn into a frenzy, especially if the need for a new player is glaringly obvious. In United’s case it is.

Let’s take a look at some potential January incomings and outgoings, while also assessing the likelihood of a transfer materialising:

Potential Incomings:

Franck Kessié

Naturally we’ll start with one of the most talked about and rumoured transfers over the last few months, Franck Kessié is a central defensive midfielder currently playing his trade at Italian giants AC Milan. The Ivorian is only 24 years of age and possesses bags of ability for a player at such an early stage in their career. 

United experienced first-hand how much of a controlling presence the midfielder can have, Kessié played both legs in last season’s Europa League clash between Milan and United. This is exactly the type of player that could inject some much-needed energy and presence back into United’s midfield. The highly rated prospect is out of contract with Milan next year, and with rumours swirling around that Kessié demands higher wages that Milan can afford to pay, it is likely he may be on the move in January or at the very least summer 2022. 

Additionally, Kessié has actually previously expressed desire to play for United one day, make of that what you will…

Likelihood: 3/5

Marcelo Brozovic

Moving onto the other team in Milan, Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic is also out of contract next summer and potentially seeking a move away from the San Siro. The Croatian midfielder is also more of a defensive option and offers a wealth of experience, sitting at 28 years of age with over 60 caps for Croatia means that if United were to opt for his signing it would add an influential presence alongside existing midfielders. 

Brozovic is an excellent playmaker from deep, occupying the space just in front of the two centre-backs. With a brilliant passing range he is often able to bypass other team’s press with calming authority, something United could really use. Additionally, off the ball the Croatian is competent, content to read the game and sit back while stifling spaces and cutting off passing lanes. 

Signing Brozovic would only be a positive for United, adding him in January could genuinely change the club’s fortunes for the season dramatically, however there are a number of other teams sniffing around for his signature- including Liverpool and Barcelona.

Likelihood: 3/5

Aurélien Tchouaméni

Aurélien Tchouaméni is another player that has recently been linked with United frequently, it would seem with good reason too. Tchouaméni is just 21 years of age, making him a very raw talent. Playing in central midfield, primarily as a defensive midfielder, the youngster has massively impressed to draw the attention of top clubs. 

Tchouaméni is a great ball winning player and also possesses the asset of being able to progress the ball, whether that be from driving forward with pace or picking the right forward pass. The Frenchman has already got international caps and recently played alongside Paul Pogba, the two working effectively together in midfield. 

If United want to look for a player with a high ceiling of potential that they can subsequently mould into what they see fit then this is a good option, with the benefit of existing connections to Pogba. 

Likelihood: 3/5

Kieran Trippier

United’s interest in Kieran Trippier is well documented at this point and the England full-back has reportedly been open to a move since the summer. Trippier became only the fourth Englishmen to win La Liga last year with Atletico Madrid, a triumphant reward for what was an unorthodox move for an English player. 

Despite being 31, the right-back is able to motor up and down the flank and is a bit of a set piece specialist, United may be keen to find someone of Tripper’s ilk in order to provide pinpoint crosses for Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Additionally, the acquisition of Trippier would relieve pressure on Aaron Wan Bissaka but the prospect of Atletico letting a first team player leave this January is fairly low, so this deal may be difficult to do.

Likelihood: 2/5

Potential Outgoings:

Donny van de Beek

It’s no secret that Donny van de Beek has grown increasingly frustrated with his role at United, or lack of one for that matter. Van de Beek has only featured three times for United so far this season, playing the full 90 only once in the Carabao Cup defeat against

West Ham

This lack of game time combined with murmurings of unfulfilled promises from Solskjaer mean that it’s almost certain the Dutchman will seek to move to pastures new this January. If a move does materialise then United can expect to pocket at least £25 million for the talented midfielder, who was originally signed from Ajax for £35.7 million.

Likelihood: 4/5

Jesse Lingard

The rollercoaster ride for Jesse Lingard has been nothing short of incredible, from being scapegoated as not good enough at United, suffering with personal issues and then blossoming at West Ham United on a loan move last season, Lingard has experienced it all in the last 18 months. 

The 28-year-old actually became one of the best attacking players in the league after switching to West Ham on loan last season, enjoying a scintillating run of form that many thought would lead to a permanent switch to London.

 However, when the summer window closed this year, Lingard remained, despite being touted as worth around £35 million pounds amid interest from West Ham and others. Lingard has scored for United already this season and enjoyed some positive moments but if the England international is to play regularly he will have to seek football elsewhere. 

If United do manage to sell Lingard in the January window, then they will gain a significant sum that should be used to reinvest in the midfield straight away.

Likelihood: 3/5

Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial has struggled over the least year or so to really establish himself as a reliable Manchester United forward. Switching between a striker role and occupying the left flank, the Frenchman hasn’t seemed his once cool and deadly self. With the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho it is going to be increasingly difficult for Martial to get any sort of game time at United, meaning a move will likely be his best option. 

Despite this, it would be a huge surprise if Solskjaer greenlights a departure in January for the forward as he won’t want to lose too many players if Lingard and Van de Beek end up leaving.

Likelihood: 2/5

Overall, I expect United to be active in the upcoming January transfer window, with at least one player leaving the club on either a permanent basis or a loan deal. United need to bring in a midfielder but they will need the funds in order to do so, which is why the sale of one player on a permanent basis will be a key factor in this whole process. 

The lack of quality in the midfield currently is evident and Solskjaer doesn’t have the correct profile of player to remedy the issue at the moment it would seem, so bringing in one of the targets listed above would be a massive boost for the overall balance in general. 

If United are successful in acquiring a defensive midfield target, then there’s no reason why the second half of the season can’t be fruitful with some silverware, but as always, only time will tell.

Written by Sam Wilson 

Anthony Martial ‘unloved’ at Manchester United and needs assurances, says Teddy Sheringham

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to show Anthony Martial some love after the French forward has fallen down the pecking order at the club. Former United striker and treble winner in the 1998/99 season, Teddy Sheringham thinks this needs to happen in order for the player to find his feet again.

The United legend has sympathy for the 25-year-old, who had a terrific season during 2019/20 when he scored 23 goals and 12 assists in 48 appearances, which was his best ever season for the club. Sadly, the Frenchman was not able to live up to those expectations last season, scoring seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances.

This season, Martial has made six appearances, playing in the Premier League four times and one in each of the UEFA Champions League and the Carabao Cup, however, has not scored any goals or assists – in fact, the Martial has played, he has looked terrible, uninterested and void of confidence. Something needs to give. The player has already been linked with a £40 million exit during the January transfer window.

I can also sympathise with the player for his dreadful run of form but he should be able to pull himself out of whatever he is going through without former players of the club suggesting that he needs more love from the manager. This is quite embarrassing for the club and the player. This is not the first time that Martial has looked like he hates life at the club and it is not the first manager he has been like this under either.

Sheringham stated that he feels that Martial is under pressure every time that he plays for United, which is the case considering the array of talent in the attacking ranks of the club this season. Solskjaer has Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and the Frenchman who could lead the line. In the wide positions he has Marcus Rashford, who started the season injured after shoulder surgery and still has not played, Jadon Sancho, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Amad Diallo, who is on the sidelines through injury.

This puts each player under pressure to perform, or another player will be given a chance. If the pressure is too much for Martial at United, why should he be treated any different to other players at the club? If it is too much, he could leave the club. He’s reportedly on £250,000 and that sort of wage will come with the pressure to perform. Right now, Martial is not worth a fraction of the wage as he does nothing for it. He’s not being victimised – just expected to perform his duties on the pitch – it is not hard to understand.

Sheringham spoke to The Mail about Martial’s situation, comparing the situation that Martial finds himself in with Tammy Abraham’s resurgence at AS Roma after being sold by Chelsea in the summer, scoring two goals and two assists in eight appearances. The former United striker said;

“It’s similar to Harry Kane and Tammy Abraham, centre-forwards need to be loved.

“If you’re not feeling loved and appreciated, if you feel you have one chance to do well in the Carabao Cup and if you don’t you’re not going to get anywhere near the Premier League games, it does put pressure on you.

“Tammy has gone to Roma and Jose Mourinho has said ‘go in there and if you miss chances, you’re not going to be out the team straight away’.

“It gives you a relaxed time. Footballers need to be relaxed and cool in front of goal, not snapping at chances.

“When you are loved by a manager, you have that feeling. Martial obviously isn’t getting that at the moment because there are other players at the club in front of him and you feel like you have to snatch chances when you can.”

Martial started against West Ham United in the third round of the Carabao Cup last week and was criticised for his performance, or lack of during the match, which in my opinion was right. A player that is not performing well should be out to correct that every chance they get to represent their club. It does not look good for Martial, especially if he also feels that he needs to be shown more love at the club.

The way I see it is that if you do not perform, the more whinging and moaning you do will not change that. Hard work, determination and belief will help most people through a crisis but this is something that we have seen before with the Frenchman and it will be something that we see time and time again.

United will face Villarreal in the Champions League group stage this evening, a match that the club will need a win to get points on the board in their group, which is seemingly one of the easier groups in the competition this season. It seems likely that Martial will need to wait for his next chance to play again, which will lengthen more when Rashford is fit and able to play again.

When you have teammates such as Ronaldo, Rashford, Greenwood, Cavani, Amad, Sancho – who will all be seeking to play regularly, if you are not performing as well as is expected, the bench will be the likely place for them. Martial should look at the position that he has been in before and how he got out of that – maybe try the same thing again. But more importantly, he should look why he is in this position again.

Written by John Walker

Time up for Tony? Can Anthony Martial find his form or will he continue to lose trust?

When Anthony Martial introduced himself to Manchester United fans with a debut goal off the bench against Liverpool at Old Trafford, he instantly made himself a fan favourite. When he signed in the summer of 2015, Martial became the world’s most expensive teenager after United paid a reported fee of £36 million for the French forward.

Of course, a price tag like this led to high expectations from the beginning for Martial, but most fans were willing to give the then 19-year-old time to fulfil his potential. Six years later, and it looks like that time and patience has finally run out.

While talk of Martials time being up at the club has risen off the back of the disappointing defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup this week, this article is not a reactionary one to that singular result, in fact, many would argue that Martials place at the club has been questionable for over a year now.

After what was a personal best season in 2019/20, scoring 23 and assisting 12 in 48 appearances, United fans felt this was the time for Martial to push on and fulfil his potential. However, in the 2020/21 season, Martial got off to a slow start and then ruptured his knee ligament during a World Cup qualifier for France, as reported by Manchester Evening News, this injury occurred in early April and kept him out for the remainder of the season. 

During this season new signing Edinson Cavani took Martial’s place as the starting central striker for United, with the Uruguayan ending the season with 17 goals and six assists. This, many fans believe, was the beginning of the end for Martial at United as Cavani was brought in as an experienced back up option and ended the season un-droppable, with Martial making minimal impact throughout the campaign, scoring seven and assisting nine

Perhaps the final nail in the coffin was the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, not only a club legend already, Ronaldo is one of the best strikers in the world and became an instant starter for United, with Martial dropping to the bench immediately even though fully fit for Ronaldo’s debut against Newcastle United. 

Of course, very few players could block Ronaldo from starting as a striker, but it does show how far Martial has fallen since the 2019 season, with him now being behind Ronaldo, Cavani and Mason Greenwood in the striker position. 

When he did get his chance to start as a striker mid-week against West Ham United, the Frenchmen paled in comparison to Ronaldo and Cavani, the difference in ability was clear to see for all fans, with past United striker Dion Dublin stating; ‘His body language is horrible to watch, he doesn’t want to run around and work hard to be Manchester United’s number nine.’, as reported by Manchester Evening News.  

This perceived lack of interest, coupled with the clear difference in ability to those ahead of him, it is hard to see any way Martial can make his way back into the starting eleven for Manchester United.

For many United fans, seeing Martial fade and not fulfil his potential and the club is hard, he has been a fan favourite for many years. When things were not going his way under Jose Mourinho most blamed the manager instead of the player, with Martial admitting Mourinho’s public criticism of him made him want to prove him wrong on the pitch, as reported by the Independent.

Martial practically became the poster boy for the ‘Jose Out’ movement, an example of a player with ability that was being hindered by the managers playing style, perhaps the three seasons under Mourinho allowed Martial a bit more patience with the fans as it was believed that the player’s development had stalled during this time. 

However, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Martial can no longer rely on fans turning on the manager before they turn on him with most of the squad playing at their full potential, it makes it glaringly obvious that now the issue lies with him. 

To say that Martial’s time is up at United would be jumping to conclusions, and there is still time before the January transfer window for the forward to prove doubters wrong. However, after that performance against West Ham, it is hard to envisage the striker being relied on by the manager the same way ever again. 

Once the trust is gone from the manager, and the good will of the fans has run out, it becomes only a matter of time. Unfortunately for Martial, this is the place he finds himself in now. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Anthony Martial could be sold for £40 million during the January transfer window – reports

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial could be sold during the January transfer window according to reports. It is suggested that the Old Trafford club could be seeking as little as £40 million for him.

Martial could move to a Premier League rival too, which is not something that really bothers me as the player is not really doing much to ensure he reaches his full potential at the club, which is something that will get me lots of opposition from the supporters that seem to think he is one of the best players at the club.

Eurosport reported the rumour, which seems logical as there were many rumours in the summer that United were seeking to offload the player, which would be a good time to do so. It has even been reported that Martial turned down a deadline day switch to Olimpique Lyonnais during the summer transfer window, which seemed strange considering the signing of both Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.

Martial, 25, has three years remaining on his current contract with United, which also includes the option of another year to be added. The Frenchman can play on the left-wing and the right-wing, also as a centre-forward – which is where he has played a lot of his football.

More recently though, the likes of Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and now Ronaldo will be more prevalent in the position, which sees Martial on the bench in most matches and only playing as a rotation options, which is not the best for his career.

Martial earns £250,000 per week, according to reports, which could be a sticking point for any interested club, unless the player is willing to take a huge pay cut to give him regular playing time, which is the best thing he could do as he must be frustrated knowing that his future at United is limited to a bit-part role.

It is suggested that United have informed the representatives of Martial that he is free to leave in the New Year, which gives the suggestion, if the reports are right that Martial has no future at United. That said, there are many other players at the club in the same predicament but they are still there as suitors are put off by their wage demands.

Martial feels, according to the report, that the £40 million price tag set by United may price him out of a possible move in the New Year but he needs to think about his contract and that United will be seeking to recoup money spent on the forward on deadline day in the summer of 2015.

In the summer, Atletico Madrid showed interest in the Frenchman but they have singe re-signed Antoine Griezmann, so their need to sign Martial no longer seems plausible. I am sure there will be clubs interested in Martial but he also needs to realise that he is key to getting a move away by reducing his wage demands.

He could remain at United until the expiry of his contract in the summer of 2024, earning £250,000 per week but finding frustrating with a lack of playing time, which will ruin his chances to represent France on the international stage. He could severely reduce his wage demands and play week in and week out.

Last season, Martial made a total of 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals and nine assists, which was not a good season for him considering what he achieved the season before. During the 2019/20 season, the Frenchman made a total of 48 appearances, scoring 23 goals and 12 assists, which was his best season for the Old Trafford club.

Currently, Martial has made just five appearances for United, failing to score or assist a single goal, playing just 100 minutes of football. He is in the squad to face West Ham United in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford, but whether he starts the match or excels, remains to be seen.

Based on the players at United in the attacking positions this season, Martial is going to find it hard to get ahead of them. Cristiano Ronaldo will be the main striker with Edinson Cavani standing in, when he is fit. Mason Greenwood is a player for the future, who can play on the wings with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford also able to play on the wings – with Rashford able to fill in as the striker at times – when he is fit.

Added to this, Anthony Elanga has done well when given an opportunity, which kind of leads Martial put on his ear as they have all offered so much more than the Frenchman when given chances. Rashford and Greenwood are able to score more goals, Sancho should offer that when he settles in and Ronaldo and Cavani are self-explanatory in terms of what they offer.

It is suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to sell up to five players in the not too distant future – Martial being one of those. The others are suggested to be Jesse Lingard – who is out of contract next summer, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Donny van de Beek. There may not be much truth to the list though – these are just rumours.

Written by John Walker

Ranking Manchester United’s best front three

With the homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani opting to stay another year at the club, Manchester United have a plethora of options offensively. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a crucial job in identifying what his best front three will be to go into the rest of this season and how to keep the squad well rotated as well as maintaining the high quality throughout the team.

In previous seasons, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood/Daniel James has been the main attacking trio. But with the departure of James, the injury to Rashford and the loss of form of Martial, United’s current attack could look far different. Solskjaer has many options to choose from as especially last season with Martial’s inconsistency and Cavani’s superb form, Solskjaer looked to play Paul Pogba off the left wing so he could have more effect offensively. 

Thus, Solskjaer has even more versatility upfront especially with the signing of Jadon Sancho to add to the mix. The key thing for Solskjaer and his coaches is finding the right balance. On paper an attack can look strong but without balance and chemistry it won’t work. Since Bruno Fernandes’ signing, United have heavily relied on individual brilliance to get over the line, and in some games that is important but the constant need for the result to be secured as a result of a moment of magic is unsustainable. 

Therefore, Solskjaer must make sure the front three he opts with will have the right blend to create the right rhythm and impetus in their attacking play. With all the options Solskjaer has and the varying attributes each player has, it’s likely he will look to use different front threes in different games suited to the opposition. 

Against the big teams, Solskjaer has opted to use a pacey front three that could expose the oppositions defence on the counter-attack. The best front three fitted to that would be Rashford, Ronaldo and either Sancho or Greenwood. With Rashford’s successful surgery, he’ll be looking to get back into the first team by October and with his blistering speed he can humiliate defences especially if he has space to run into. 

Despite Ronaldo’s age, he still has some good speed in him and with Martial losing a couple yards of pace recently, and Cavani not being renowned for his pace, Ronaldo would provide the best balance to sustain this counter-attack. Off the right wing it’s a trickier decision as both Sancho and Greenwood are fast. Greenwood brings lethal finishing as he cuts in off the right whereas Sancho provides a more creative option with his silky dribbling and precise vision. 

As Ronaldo is a pure finisher and Rashford is more of a shooter rather than a creator, Sancho may fit this front three better as he provides the balance of finishing with that creative aspect, whereas Greenwood would make that front three quite predictable as they all would look to shoot and thus Rashford, Ronaldo and Sancho would be the best front three for a counter attacking game.

In games when the opposition sit back, it will need a mix of creativity but also the right finishers to take the few chances they get. With Fernandes’ unique ability to score lots of goals from midfield, Solskjaer could look to give him license to shoot with Ronaldo in-front of him creating the Portuguese linkup and then have Pogba off the left and Sancho off the right. 

Often when playing against the defensive teams, United struggle to create many chances but with Sancho, Pogba and Fernandes’ creativity it would be more effective at breaking down the ‘low block’ and with a lethal goalscorer in Ronaldo he will take the chances that are provided.

In some games its neither pure counter-attack or pure offense against low block, it has elements of both. Often, we’ve seen this against teams like Southampton, Wolves, Aston Villa and Brighton. These teams won’t go fully at you but will press high and won’t sit back. To combat this, Solskjaer should implement that pace on the counter-attack but also that high technical ability and thus should use Rashford off the left, Ronaldo through the middle and Sancho off the right. 

In all these teams, form is important and currently Greenwood is un-droppable, but due to his unbelievable finishing, this can be exploited late in a game off the bench when the opposition is more penned in.  The balance between Rashford’s direct running and speed with Sancho’s quality weight of pass and dribbling should provide a solid counter-attack but also enough if the game adapts to a low block and United will be able to break it down.

Ultimately, I think the front three is very dependent on the opposition as each forward has different qualities. Although Cavani doesn’t start in any of these, he like Greenwood could be very impactful off the bench and provide those trademark runs to find space and take a game and win it individually. 

Ronaldo’s signing provides proven quality in the box which will be influential throughout and then the alternation between Pogba, Rashford, Greenwood and Sancho on the wings will create pivotal squad depth and tactical flexibility for Solskjaer to ensure he has the right options to win the game to take United back to winning silverware.

Written by Ethan Bents

What is going wrong with Anthony Martial?

Anthony Martial signed for Manchester United on transfer deadline day, the 1 September 2015 – six years to the day. United paid £36 million initially to AS Monaco, which has since risen to £57.6 million with clauses in the contract since being met. At the start of his United career, he seemed to fit the bill at the club, scoring and assisting goals with 17 goals and nine assists in 49 appearances for the club in the 2015/16 season.

To date, Martial have made a total of 261 appearances in all competitions for United, scoring 78 goals and a further 50 assists which is not the numbers a forward with his ability should be achieving. He could have perhaps doubled his goal and assist output in the time he has been at the club if he wanted to. He is known as a player that sulks a lot, purely because he does not smile all that often and has been linked with more exits in the past few years than some of the major players in the game.

It is worrying that Martial is not performing to the levels that he is expected to perform and this season, with the likes of Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford (when he is fit), Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, it is likely that if his bad form continues, he will be left sulking once again. It was speculated that the Frenchman was linked to Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day but nothing materialised and rumours suggested he was not for sale – which seems weird considering his form.

That could change in January or at the end of the season though as his teammates will not be happy to settle with a player that is not pulling their weight. Martial had the world at his feet back in 2015 when he signed for United but as those six years have passed, he’s lucky to be where he is at this moment in time.

What is going wrong with Anthony Martial?

The problems with Martial are not just recent, they have been happening throughout his career at the club and one manager is not to blame. Louis van Gaal did not really suffer many problems with Martial as his first season at the club was the Dutchman’s last with him being sacked days after winning the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season. Jose Mourinho suffered many problems with Martial in his two and a half years at the club and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not seeing the best of the Frenchman.

In Mourinho’s first season (2016/17), Martial scored eight goals and got eight assists in 42 appearances in all competitions, achieving 11 goals, also getting nine assists during the 2017/18 season. During the 2018/19 season, in which Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 and Solskjaer was brought in as the caretaker manager, Martial managed 12 goals and three assists in 38 appearances. However, in the 2019/20 season, which saw the coronavirus pandemic arrive, Martial managed 23 goals and 12 assists in 48 appearances – the best he has achieved at the club so far. Last season (2020/21) he managed seven goals and nine assists in 36 appearances, which was terrible for him.

There does not seem to be just one reason by Martial is not performing at the club. He started out well playing as the striker, which seemed to work as he finished the season as the clubs top scorer that season. However, he did not continue scoring goals galore, which was a shame. At times he played well as the striker, but at others he seemed to be better in the left-wing position.

There has been much criticism of Martial over the years with come suggesting that he ‘does not look like he enjoys football’, but Solskjaer has jumped to defend the player many times. There has been suggestions that he is lazy, his attitude has not been right and lots of things said in-between and many of the criticisms that he has faced do look like they have substance. I don’t think he helps himself at times. This season though, he has started terribly, even in pre-season coming back from a knee injury. In three appearances and 93 minute of football, he’s produced nothing which is a massive worry. It cannot always stay this way though – either he finds his feet or he’s sold to a team that wants to take the gamble.

How can Anthony Martial find his form once again?

Martial is the clubs 13th top scorer with 78 goals, three behind compatriot Eric Cantona, managing a goal every 224 minutes on average. He has seen Rashford make his debut in February 2016 against Midtjylland, scoring a brace in the UEFA Europa League, then score another brace days later against Arsenal in the Premier League. ow the England forward has scored 88 goals for the club, ten more than the Frenchman. This season, it is possible that Bruno Fernandes will try to match his goal scoring output – currently on 43 goals for the club, which will increase as the season continues.

Martial could find his feet again by playing on the left-wing as further than that, he seems to let everyone down. Cavani and Greenwood are the most prolific forwards at the club currently and Ronaldo’s return will add a third player in the main striker role ahead of him, meaning that whilst Rashford is recovering from injury, that is his best chance to play, although other players will challenge him in this position despite the sale of Daniel James to Leeds United on transfer deadline day.

Martial might need to get back to basics, not over complicating his game. Cutting into the middle from the wing was how he scored many goals in his first season, also the season before last, so finding that once more could help him but consistency seems to be a problem too. The players around him should be getting the best from him and they can only do so much, Martial will need to work harder to achieve that. If that s not something he wants to do, every time he played for United, he will let the club, manager, coaches, teammates and supporters down.

Either he has it in him find his feet once more, or he cannot blame anyone but himself for it all failing at the club. After the start he had in the 2015/16 season, added to his beat season during 2019/20, to fall at this hurdle will suggest he reached his peak early and could well be on the decline, which is hopefully not true. He will need to watch over his shoulder though as Greenwood, Amad Diallo, Sancho, Facundo Pellistri, Anthony Elanga, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri will all be waiting for their chances in the first team and will set up to the occasion. I think Elanga and Amad have the best chances at this time.

What lies ahead for Anthony Martial?

The way things are going, the most likely outcome for Martial is failure. If he is offering nothing for United this season, there is little point in him being at the club. There are many players who will be seeking to find their positions at the club this season and Elanga seems the most likely to push for a place in the first team based on his pre-season form and his debut Premier League against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the end of last season. He has pace, ability, an eye for a goal – everything that Martial seems to be lacking at this time.

Of course, he could find his feet and prove his doubters wrong, battling the likes of Rashford, Greenwood, Cavani and Ronaldo to find a place in the attacking line this season. It does not seem to be the most hopeful outcome though based on the form of Greenwood, scoring three goals in the first three matches of the season but with the UEFA Champions League and the Carabao Cup commencing this month, there will be ample opportunity for his to show his worth in this squad, whether he takes the chances given or not.

If he does start to find some kind of form, he will offer something from the bench but only if attacking changes are needed in a match. United have a wealth of attack right now, with a wealth of defenders and are lacking in midfield, at least in the defensive-minded positions, so Martial will have to work very hard o become noticed again. To be honest, he is his own worst enemy at times with many noticing that he does not look like he even enjoys himself – he might have a good poker face though.

It would be a shame if it all ended for the Frenchman at United but the writing has been on the wall, not jus last season, but before that too. He was unable to match the form that gave him his best season at the club during the 2019/20 season, which will be his benchmark. Greenwood has raised his game from his breakthrough season to now so it is only fair to expect Martial to offer the same. If it does not work out for him though, despite having fans at the club in the Glazers, Solskjaer will seek to move him on, probably being let down by the club as they don’t seem able to shift the deadwood, or somehow seem reluctant to.

Written by John Walker

An Attacking Dilemma: How will Manchester United cope without Marcus Rashford?

In the 2020/21 season Marcus Rashford had a career best season, scoring 21 times and assisting 15 in 57 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United, this attacking return cemented Rashford as a key player in the United first team, with only Bruno Fernandes having a better attacking contribution with 28 goals and 17 assists in one more game than Rashford. With these attacking returns, it is easy to understand why many United fans are anxious about the prospect of not having the number 10 until October.

The reason for the absence of Rashford is surgery he decided to have on a shoulder injury, the Manchester Evening News reported that ‘the forward has been playing with several injuries for the last year, with the shoulder injury being the most troubling’, the fact Rashford had been playing through an injury barrier in the 2020/21 season and still managed his best attacking return implies that had he not been injured, those numbers may have been even better, proving how crucial a player he is. While Rashford is side-lined it is important to evaluate the options Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has available to him in that left wing position while and consider who may even thrive in that position while given the opportunity. 

The first, and perhaps most exciting, option that United have in that left-midfield area to fill in for Rashford is Paul Pogba, who played in that position in United’s opening game at Old Trafford against Leeds United. Pogba put in a “Man of the Match” worthy performance, contributing four assists during the 5-1 win. Playing the Scott McTominay and Fred pivot allowed Pogba more freedom down the left-hand side in comparison to the more reserved game he must play when he is played deeper and more central in a pivot role. 

This freedom not only allowed Pogba to go further forward down the pitch with the ball, but also allowed him to be more fluid in his positioning, an example of this being the position he was in to deliver the assist for Fernandes’ first goal, Pogba occupies a central position while Mason Greenwood turns and runs down the left hand side and Fernandes pulled ahead into the space Greenwood has just vacated to run between the defenders and slot home his first goal of the day. 

This fluidity is a crucial part of Pogba’s game and is something he did regularly during his time at Juventus, however, since signing for United in 2016, Pogba has more often than not been played in a midfield two, expected to create from a deep lying position, this injury to Rashford, and the managers trust in the McTominay and Fred partnership, has created the perfect opportunity for Pogba to show his ability when given freedom down his favoured left hand side of the pitch. After his five-star performance on the opening day of the season, maybe United don’t need to look much further than their record signing for the perfect option to fill the void left by Rashford. 

The key issue with relying on Pogba in that left midfield area is that as a team United are still relatively thin in midfield, it would only take an injury to Fred, McTominay or Nemanja Matic for Solskjaer to need to use Pogba in the central midfield role he can also play. Therefore, while for now, with a very fit squad, Paul Pogba is the most exciting and straight forward replacement for Rashford, he cannot be the one to completely rely on. There must be other options for games where Pogba will need to play midfield between now and October, which is the expected return date for Rashford as reported by Sky Sports.

A second natural fit Manchester United could use to play on the left, that wouldn’t take away from their midfield options, is winger Daniel James. Since signing for United in 2019 James has played 4,526 minutes in all competitions across two full seasons at the club, in that time scoring nine goals and getting nine assists, while these numbers are much weaker than Rashford’s, it must be noted that for the majority of James’s Manchester United career he has been played out of position on the right wing, instead of his favoured position of left wing, which is the position he played for previous team Swansea and his national team. 

In his final season at Swansea, before he signed for United, James registered five goals and 10 assists in 2,815 minutes from the left wing, for a young player in the Championship, in a team like Swansea who will not be attacking as regularly as Manchester United, these are very respectable numbers. Similarly, in only 1,877 minutes for Wales, James has registered four goals and three assists, again this is in a much more conservative team than United, with weaker players around him. 

These numbers imply that James produces better attacking contributions when playing on the left-wing, it could be argued that the current predicament is a natural time for Solskjaer to give James a run of games in his favoured position to see what he is able to do there. It must also be noted that James is one of the fastest players in the league, an attribute that Rashford also has, this might help in games against teams who defend with a high line as James speed in behind, must like Rashford’s when fit, could be used as a tactic to break those teams down. This is an attribute Pogba lacks. 

The final player who could be used to fill the position left vacant by Marcus Rashford is Anthony Martial. Of course, since Solskjaer’s arrival at the club, Martial has been used primarily as a central striker which is his favoured position as reported by The Daily Mail, a move which paid off in the 2019/20 season when Martial delivered his best attacking return in a Manchester United shirt, scoring 23 goals and getting 12 assists in 48 appearances

However, in the following season, these numbers stalled significantly in the central forward position, with the number nine only managing seven goals and nine assists in 27 appearances, this meant that Edison Cavani took his spot as United’s starting striker midway through the season. Interestingly, in Martials first season at United in 2015/16 the attacker played a total of 4,128 minutes getting 17 goals and nine assists, from the left-wing position only, he played 2,132 minutes scoring nine goals and getting seven assists, showing that most of his attacking contributions came from the left-wing position, in 2,000 fewer minutes overall. 

This is a trend that continues throughout his United career, until he is moved to only play striker in the 2019/20 season. He consistently produces most of his attacking returns from the left-hand side, proving that he is a valuable player in that position. 

Another reason why Martial may be the perfect fit to replace Rashford while he is side-lined is because he is currently third in the pecking order in his favoured position of centre forward. After the breakthrough of Greenwood and the solid season in 2020/21 from Edinson Cavani, Martial may need to move position for the foreseeable to get the minutes he wants and needs as a player.

It is a position the fan base has seen him thrive in before and would leave room for Greenwood to flourish in the striker role after the summer signing of right winger Jadon Sancho, everything seemingly fits in place for Martial to make a comeback this season from the left-wing, staking his claim as a valuable attacking player for United. 

What this illustrates is that while the prospect of starting a new season without a talismanic figure like Rashford may be daunting for United fans, the squad is now deep enough that the team can not only survive the absence of Rashford, but perhaps even thrive due to the wealth of attacking ability now at the club. Pogba, James and Martial all have individual qualities that can fill the void left by Rashford, with Solskjaer even having the option of rotating these players in the left sided position to best fit the opposition.

It should also be noted that while Rashford will no doubt be missed, this forced break away from the game can only do the young star good after playing through injuries for the best part of a year and through Euro 2020, perhaps United fans will see an even better Marcus Rashford when he returns fully fit and ready to make his mark on the 2021/22 campaign.

Written by Jennifer McCord

Anthony Martial: A Make or Break Season Lies Ahead?

Since Anthony Martial’s arrival in 2015, he has been a key member of the squad rising from a promising talent to a star player. In his first season at the club, he started off as a striker scoring 11 goals and assisting four in the league. For a young French striker with immense pressure this was a good year but following this season he was forced out onto the wing due to the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The following season he managed only four goals and six assists in the league which is a slight drop off but to be expected due to his position change.

For the next three years Martial was predominantly played off the left wing but always wanted the centre forward spot back. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 2019/20 season, Martial was entrusted by to play as the lone centre forward. This saw the resurgence of Martial’s form scoring 17 goals and providing seven assists which was his best since signing from Monaco. However, this brilliant form didn’t become consistency and in the 2020/21 season Martial lost his place as the lone striker to the new signing Edinson Cavani and only managed to score four and assist six.

However, with United looking likely to bring in a striker next season, is this Martial’s make or break season to prove to Solskjaer that he’s worth keeping or will he be shipped out to make way for more promising talents like Amad Diallo, Facundo Pellistri, Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbri and Jadon Sancho. As a player, Martial is immensely talented; he is good with both feet, has good link up play which has helped him develop great chemistry with Marcus Rashford.

Furthermore, he has good speed and silky dribbling. His finishing was a key fundamental to his game, but last season he lost his way a bit. By learning to play on the wing it helped enhance attributes like agility and that improved his dribbling which once he was playing at centre-forward helped him wriggle out of tight spaces and turn defenders at ease. One major attribute Martial lacks is heading. In such a physical league as the Premier League, crossing is essential to breaking down teams, thus the need for the team’s striker to be able to head is incredibly high.

Martial isn’t the most effective in the air which limits United’s forward force as the wingers are less likely to cross the ball in due to the lack of ariel presence. This is a major reason as to why Cavani has taken Martial’s spot because he is excellent in the area broadening United’s attacking creativity. In addition, the biggest difference between Cavani and Martial as a centre forward is movement. Cavani’s movement is world class, he drifts between the centre half’s always looking to get ahead of his man, making all sorts of runs pulling the defenders out of their comfort zones at all times.

Martial is much more static, he tries to find gaps between the defenders but he won’t chase a cross like Cavani. This is a major aspect Martial must improve on if he is to succeed at United because his static nature makes him predictable in the box, which is easy to mark and subsequently making him less dangerous which in turn hinders the United attack as the defenders can easily cover him and the others in the box appropriately. Whereas, with Cavani, due to his dangerous runs, he drags multiple defenders with him which leaves space for the other forwards to take advantage of.

At his best, Martial has a great effect on this Manchester United team. He makes them incredibly fluid offensively with great interchangeability between the three forwards creating a dangerous linkup which can confuse opposition defences as they have to mark multiple forwards all interlinking providing different strengths. Furthermore, on form he’s also a lethal finisher and only needs one chance which can tip the balance of a game in United’s favour.

If Martial can restore this form he could score plenty of crucial goals for United next season, and also due to his linkup create lot of chances which quality players like Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho could score. Overall, I feel this is Martial’s make or break season as if he doesn’t perform, he will end up either being sold or being sat on the bench as a back up to a new forward. Martial must develop his game off Cavani, giving the forwards more versatility in attack in order to create more chances.

If Martial can do this, with all his talent he could have a bright future at United and potentially lead the line for a trophy winning United side.

Written by Ethan Bents

Anthony Martial opens up on the change made which took his game to the next level

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has revealed that his increased fitness levels have helped to take his game to the next level at the Old Trafford club. The Frenchman had his best season at the club, scoring 23 goals and 12 assists (35 goal involvements) in 48 appearances, beating his previous best of 17 goals and nine assists (26 goal involvements) in 49 appearances during his debut season (2015/16). In recent seasons, the Frenchman has been criticised for poor performances which saw the player sulk like Nicolas Anelka more often than not.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as the United manager, and after a series of chats with the Frenchman, Martial is not fitter, strong and in a position whereby he is the best central attacking player at the club. However, in the near future, the Frenchman could be challenged by Mason Greenwood, who according to Solskjaer is the best finisher at the club. He has seldom been chosen to play centrally and his 17 goals and five assists from 49 appearances this season have come from the wide positions. Martial, speaking about the changes, as reported by The Mirror, said:

“My job, or aim is to score goals. Then when I don’t have the ball it’s to be the first defender, meaning I have to press and close down.

“It’s something we work on in training and we’ve also worked hard on my fitness too, I’ve put in some great work with the coaching staff.

“Now I just want to make sure I continue in the same vein in order to be even better for next season.”

The 2019/20 season saw United forward line, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Greenwood score a total of 62 goals with a further 28 assists, meaning they have contributed a total of 90 goal contributions, which is a great achievement considering that United squad was struggling to score goals not all that long ago. When you add the contributions of Bruno Fernandes to this; 12 goals and eight assists – 20 goal contributions, with just four players, United will have seen 110 goal contributions during the season, which is a great achievement in itself.

Martial and Rashford have a healthy rivalry at the club in terms of scoring the goals. Whilst Rashford was in form late in 2019 and suffered his broken back at the start of 2020, if was left to Martial to carry the responsibility for United, despite the fact he had suffered an injury layoff too. Speaking with Inside United, the official Manchester United magazine, and reported by The Mirror, the Frenchman spoke about his rivalry with Rashford and the fact that it is healthy, Martial said:

“It doesn’t drive us on, not especially. Because we just try to help each other out. For example, there are some games where maybe a shot is on and then I decide to wait and see, and I give him the ball because I want him to score.

“And he does the same thing for me, so you see, we’re not just focussed on scoring all the time. We’re always going to do everything we can for the team to win.

“Which means that if he is better placed than me or I’m in a better position than him, we’ll always give each other the ball in order to score.

“I think it’s that which means… there is a healthy competition there, but the biggest thing is the positive rapport that we have with one another, which is like that.”

Martial, Rashford and Greenwood have former a deadly trio at the club this season. The Frenchman also spoke about Greenwood, after the 18-year-old had a breakthrough season at the Old Trafford club. Solskjaer confirmed that the player was the best finisher at the club and he proved it on the pitch, scoring some stunning goals for the club and showing his ability in the game, which has seen him likened to United legend Robin van Persie, which is great for the teenager and will inspire his to continue developing, which is something that he did physically during the lockdown. Martial said:

“The thing that strikes me about Mason is how effective and clinical he is. I get the feeling that whenever he shoots on goal, he scores! They are two really good players. It’s up to us to keep training hard and working to perfect how that trio works together.

“We mustn’t forget either that there are other players on the side lines who are pushing really hard to get a game. We need keep going and have to perform well in order to be able to play and win our games.”

Written by John Walker

Anthony Martial told to become more ruthless to be considered world-class

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has ben told that he is not ruthless enough to be considered world-class. This season, the Frenchman has scored 23 goals and 12 assists in 47 appearances so far this season with at least one more match to play which will be the UEFA Europa League semi-final against Sevilla on Sunday evening. Granted, Martial has not been ruthless in front of goal but there is scope for him to be turned into a striker of that ilk, especially with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aiming to make changes to his performances.

Solskjaer has already suggested that tweaks to his training regime, which he feels has brought out the best of the player. It is clear to see that he is happier at the club and seems to be smiling much more than he was under the management of Jose Mourinho. You can also see that he is more frustrated when he misses, which is good to see. Against FC Copenhagen, Martial was criticised as he was very much frustrated with United needing extra time to find a winner, which came from the penalty spot with Martial winning it and Bruno Fernandes scoring it.

Obviously, this will be something for Solskjaer and his coaching staff to get the better of ahead of the next match. It is clear that Martial is improving, having his best season at the club so far this season, beating his 17 goal haul in his debt season at the club, which was under the management of Louis van Gaal. Former England striker, Darren Bent feels that the Frenchman could become a but more ruthless in front of goal, which would be great for United.

Martial does not have a player to look up to at the club, which might be the problem. Granted, he has Odion Ighalo to learn from but he once had Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the Swede took his shirt number on arrival, which irked the Frenchman. Whilst this season would need to be something that he completed, it is going to be a while before Martial could be considered as a clinical striker, like Robin van Persie, Rudd van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney. Bent, speaking to talkSPORT, said:

“I think he’s a very good footballer, he’s got fantastic feet, but I still don’t think he’s ruthless enough in front of goal.

“He’s not world class, not yet. You can’t start calling him world class after one good season. Robert Lewandowski is world class. Harry Kane is world class.

“If he can consistently keep putting these goals in over a number of years then of course you can put him in there, but not yet.

“Martial shows flashes of brilliance at times, but if you were to put Kane in those positions last night how many of those chances would he have scored? Probably all of them, because that’s how ruthless he is.”

Solskjaer might be able to teach him as much as he can about being ruthless in front of goal but there are no guarantees that it will happen for the Frenchman as it needs to be in instinct more than something that can be trained. Not launching more criticism at him, this season his improvement has been there to see. If he can continue in the same way next season, aiming to improve some more, then it will be right for United, especially as goals seem to be coming from other areas too with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in double figures, with Bruno Fernandes scoring 11 times since he arrived at the club in January.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW