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Anthony Martial is not the striker who will break his nose, or a sweat to score a goal for Manchester United

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking after the 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg, after losing 3-2 on aggregate talked about wanting a striker who “wants to break their nose” to score goals for the club. United have been struggling for goals for a while, even when Romelu Lukaku was at the club – the overall mentality from the periods of success had not continued with the club into the future, or at least that is the way I see it.

The injury to Marcus Rashford, who has scored 19 goals in all competitions this season, was a big blow. Granted he was not the main striker in the team, with Anthony Martial playing that role, but in terms of what he offered, he is going to be a massive miss until he is fully fit once again, which may or may not come before the end of the season. Even with Rashford in the team, the forward line was very light to begin with and needed strengthening.

United, in effect, had no main striker in the team. It has been said for a long period of time that Martial was the main striker in the team despite the fact he was playing as a left-winger for much of his time at United, despite periods when he led the line due to injury – it was because of Martial’s injury that gave Rashford his chance in the team, which was a good thing. This season though, Martial seems terrible leading the line. He hardly ever seems to be in the right positions to score goals.

Martial has 12 goals to his name in all competitions this season, also assisting a further five times in all competitions. It may be classed as a good run of goals but looking at the rest of the Premier League clubs, they have players who have a much better goal rate, which shows United are no way near being that goal scoring team and clearly need a striker that will hit more than he misses, which seems to be the case with Martial this season. It is a worrying time for United, something they need to solve.

Many supporters of the club have criticised Martial in his time at the club. He started well, making his first appearance for the club about a fortnight after signing back on deadline day in 2015, scoring on his debut at Old Trafford against Liverpool. That season (2015/16) he scored 17 goals, assisting a further nine. The following season (2016/17) he managed just eight goals and eight assists. During the 2017/18 season, he scored 11 goals and nine assists, which sent him in the right direction.

In the 2018/19 season, which saw the departure of Jose Mourinho and the arrival of Solskjaer, Martial scored 12 goals, adding three assists – matching the number of goals scored this season and beating his assist from last season. Granted, Martial has improved but in terms of being the leading man, he’s not the right option. Solskjaer is right to be seeking to bring in a striker that will do more to score. It will help the development of Martial, Rashford and even Mason Greenwood.

18-year-old Greenwood has 10 goals and four assists whilst playing for the first team this season, which shows the talent the lad has to make it in his first season where he has been trusted a lot more in an advanced role. He has played 1,480 minutes of football, averaging a goal every 148 minutes or a goal contribution every 106 minutes. When you look at the contribution of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, you see a positive based on what they have achieved at the club this season.

Rashford has 19 goals and five assists, Martial has 12 goals and five assists, and Greenwood has 10 goals and four assists. That is 41 goals and 14 assists – which for a forward three is a good contribution for the season so far but more needs to be done to fire United to where they want to be this season – finishing in the top four of the Premier League, therefore earning a UEFA Champions League place next season. The only other way to achieve that will be to win the UEFA Europa League.

United added Bruno Fernandes to the squad during the January transfer window, which adds creativity to the midfield, providing he plays in a more advanced place in a formation or the formation is changed from a predominant 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 or something similar. United though will need to be better played with injuries as Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are missing right now, which affects the quality available in midfield. When they are fit, things could be so much better.

Odion Ighalo was the other player to arrive in January, arriving on deadline and confirmed an hour after the transfer window had closed. The player arrived in Manchester on Monday with United confirming that the player would wear the vacant number 25 shirt for the remainder of the season, which is the length of his loan spell from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua. Solskjaer stated that the Nigerian will give the squad a different option up front, based on what he’s got.

Ighalo may not be one of the biggest names in football and many supporters have mocked the signing using the suggestion that United turned down Erling Haaland, who has scored seven goals in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund so far this season, in just three matches, but I think there was more to that which was based on the release clause of the player in his contract. United will be looking to build a team, not one which can be broken up with release clauses being met.

Right now though, we have to wait around two weeks before seeing United play football again. Ighalo could face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, provided that he is fit enough to play for his new club. In China, for Shanghai Shenhua, Ighalo has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances, previously scoring 36 goals and eight assists in 55 appearances playing for Changchun Yatai. He might be enough to get United to where they want to be this season, but beyond that is down to what happens in the summer transfer window.

Rumours are back in the media about Martial not being seen as the player to carry United forward, which can be seen from his most recent appearances. He is playing more as a winger than a striker and Solskjaer is said to not value that. However, it has been reported that Martial has a fan in the ownership of the club, none other than Joel Glazer, who reportedly sees the Frenchman as United’s very own version of footballing legend, Pelé.

This made me laugh more about the Glazers than I have ever laughed before. It just goes to show that this family knows nothing about football. Imagine likening a player like Martial to Pelé. The Pelé that scored 643 goals in 656 appearances for Santos, also scoring 64 goals in 107 appearances for New York Cosmos during his playing career. Not to mention the 77 goals in 92 competitive matches for Brazil which rose to 95 goals in 114 matches including friendlies. I see no comparison at all.

Perhaps Joel Glazer meant Pellè instead of Pelé. Graziano Pellè to be exact. The Italian centre-forward who used to play for Southampton and scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 80 appearances. Martial is more Pellè than Pelé. I understand that I may upset Martial FC with these comments, but as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson in the Hollywood blockbuster, A Few Good Men, “you can’t handle the truth.” Most will agree with this comment, some will not.

Rashford, Martial and Greenwood; the attacking line to guide Manchester United back towards greatness?

Manchester United are not yet back on the road to greatness but something has been happening with the clubs attack this season which has seen Marcus Rashford achieve his best season in terms of scoring goals, Anthony Martial is well on the way to matching his best ever season for the club and academy graduate Mason Greenwood is showing his skill, desire, determination and hunger to achieve for the club he has played for since he was about six-year-old.

United, under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, are currently fifth in the Premier League table, five points shy of fourth-placed Chelsea. If recent poor results had been different, United could well be inside the top four in the league, which is where they want to be at the end of the season. United has played 33 matches in all competitions so far this season (this was written before the Emirates FA Cup replay with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Wednesday).

So far, a total of 53 goals have been scored in all competitions, including two own goals which have helped United. It may not be a great number of goals, considering Liverpool has scored 77 goals in all competitions this season but they really are the benchmark this season, sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table 14 points ahead of reigning Champions Manchester City – and they have a game in hand yet. It seems likely that they will win the league this season, unfortunately.

Despite the discontent which can be seen aligned to the club if you use social media, there are some positives to look at, if you are able to see past the criticism and actually look at the changes which have been made since the summer. Solskjaer has a plan to rebuild the club and he wants to do it properly. Shortcuts have been taken since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and they have not worked. Patience is something that needs to be applied with the club for the foreseeable future.

The attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood has been responsible for 39 goals in all competitions this season with a further ten goals being assisted by them. That is a big share of the 51 goals United have actually scored this season, which obviously does not include the own goals scored by opposition teams. The one think that really annoys me is the lack of creativity and the fact that reinforcements were not made in the summer, which has been costly.

In January 2019, Marouane Fellaini left the club for China – he was not replaced. In the summer, Ander Herrera left the club – he was not replaced. Both of these players needed to be replaced to keep the midfield deep in depth, which turns out would have been needed with all the injuries. Romelu Lukaku was sold and not replaced, although Mason Greenwood came into the squad and Alex Sanchez left on loan and was not replaced, although he really did not do much anyway.

United desperately need another striker, preferably one with experience, an attacking midfielder, and a defensive midfielder as the main priorities at this moment in time. That should really have been the minimum in the summer, added to the arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, and Harry Maguire. When you look at the goals scored by Rashford, 19, Martial, 11, and Greenwood, nine – you see that these players are rising in stature and dragging United out of the doldrums this season.

Rashford has already broken his best seasons at the club, the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons where he scored 13 goals in each season – he has scored six more goals so far this season. Martial with 11 goals is well on the way to reaching the same number of goals he scored in his debut season, the 2015/16 season where he scored a total of 17 goals. He scored 12 last season so has one more to get to match that and he has spent two months on the sidelines through injury.

Greenwood made his break into the squad last season, playing for times but made his breakthrough this season, so far playing a total of 26 times, scoring nine goals. He was used to scoring goals in the academy where he made a total of 52 appearances, scoring 49 goals and assisting 18 more. Obviously, he has had to step his game up a bit and seems to come off the bench more often than starting matches, but has impressed his teammates and the manager each time he has played.

When you look at the 39 goals and 10 assists that Rashford, Martial and Greenwood are responsible for and look at the likes of Liverpool, who have Mohamed Salah (14 goals, 8 assists), Sadio Mane (15 goals, 9 assists) and Roberto Firmino (9 goals, 9 assists) – totalling 38 goals and 26 assists this season – United’s trio of attacking players are not that far off matching those numbers. With better creativity behind them, and a change in formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, it could be a lot better.

For long spells of the season, United have been missing Paul Pogba, the player who was the top goalscorer last season, also for assists, chances created etc, has been a big miss in the team. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding his future, which is still buzzing around the media now. Scott McTominay has also missed a lot of football this season, which has left United scratching their heads in terms of how the team works. It is clear that buying players is the only main option to take.

Bruno Fernandes has been linked to the club again with speculation suggesting that a deal could be struck this month, but the same was said in the summer. This season, Fernandes has scored 15 goals and assisted a further 13, which does not mean he will create the same numbers at United from the start, if he is signed. Creativity is the key and getting that right will enable Rashford, Martial and Greenwood to increase their goals and assists which will be great for United.

Obviously, there are a lot of things that need to change in order for United to come through the other side as a team capable of challenging for the Premier League title once again. There is still lots of deadwood at the club which needs to be cleared out, players on high wages who has no desire to move to another club because they are well paid at United and that wage will not be met anywhere else – whilst these players are contracted, why would they have any desire to move on?

The club needs to formulate a plan to take the club back into the 21st century. a technical director or even a director of football needs to have full control over the footballing side of the business otherwise this rot will continue and before anyone knows it, the club will be back on the decline. The owners of the club either need to think about selling up or putting football over profits and seeing the team drive towards success on the pitch, which in turn will keep the profits coming in.

I think Solskjaer is doing his best – some may not see that as good enough but this is not FIFA or Football Manager, this is real life. The critics of every manager the club has had post-Ferguson have not achieved anything in the game. These are just people who lack patience and demand everything at the click of the finger, something they are not going to get. Patience is a virtue that needs adopting. Ferguson had opposition and look what happened there…

December Review: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood line up as Player of the Month with 16 goals combined in December

Manchester United played nine matches in the Premier League, UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup during the month of December. United won six times, drew twice and lost once during the month. They started with a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, which was a poor result to start December and resulted in negativity from the (social media) supporters once again.

However, results changed with United beating both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City in the Premier League with the same 2-1 scoreline, turning around their form considerable. Then came the final Europa League group stage match with United beating AZ Alkmaar 4-0 and topping the group. Back in the league, United fell to a 1-1 draw against Everton at home, which was another poor result.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side then beat Colchester United 3-0 in the Carabao Cup, setting up a semi-final place against Manchester City in January. Back in the league and into the busy Festive period, United fell to a 2-0 defeat away to Watford. It was a poor performance all round. They did bounce back though by beating Newcastle United 4-1 at Old Trafford and Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor, ending the month and decade in style.

Marcus Rashford – eight appearances, 665 minutes, six goals, one assist and two Man of the Match awards.

The 22-year-old is the top scorer for United this season with 16 goals. He has scored six of them in December. Rashford has played eight times for United in the month of December, playing a total of 665 minutes of football. He also assisted one goal this month, giving him seven goal contributions – averaging at least one goal or assist every 95 minutes. Rashford also won two Man of the Match awards for the 2-1 victory over Spurs and the 3-0 victory over Colchester. This season, based on him playing a total of 2,089 minutes in all competitions and adding five assists, he has averaged one goal every 99.47 minutes of football. Rashford won the Player of the Month for November and probably will for December too. Onwards and upwards.

Anthony Martial – eight appearances, 643 minutes, five goals and one Man of the Match award.

The Frenchman returned to form in December playing eight times for the club, totalling 643 minutes on the pitch. He scored five goals also winning a Man of the Match award in the 4-1 victory over Newcastle United. Martial has averaged a goal every 128.6 minutes during the month of December and has improved after spending much of the season on the sidelines through injury – he could improve a lot more to help his team out though. It will come for him. Martial has a lot to take on as the first-choice striker at the club following the departure of Romelu Lukaku in the summer. He may need to start taking his chances to be a more clinical striker. The confidence gained throughout December will inspire him to become better and help achieve with United.

Mason Greenwood – seven appearances, 324 minutes, four goals and two Man of the Match awards.

The 18-year-old has performed well during the months of December and has been put forward as the clubs Player of the Month for the second month running. Greenwood has played seven times this month, playing a total of 324 minutes, scoring four goals – an average of one goal every 81 minutes, which is a great statistic for the player. He was also names United Man of the Match for the 4-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar and the 1-1 draw with Everton. He is going to become some player if he continues his rise to fame as he has so far this season.

Notable Mentions: Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams and David De Gea.

Other than Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, four more United players deserve notable mentions for their performances in December starting with Daniel James. The Welsh winger added three assists to his first season tally at the club, making six appearances throughout the month – playing a total of 504 minutes of football. The second player is Aaron Wan-Bissaka who has become untouchable in the right-back position more often than not. The England defender played six times in December, playing a total of 520 minutes and being named Man of the Match for the victory over Manchester City.

Brandon Williams is another player to be named here as he has risen in stature in December – a young player with an old head. He made four appearances, playing 287 minutes and was named the Man of the Match in the 2-0 victory over Burnley. The final player to be mentioned is David De Gea. Yes, he’s made mistakes but playing eight of the nine matches in December, playing a total of 720 minutes, he finally kept another clean sheet in the victory over Burnley. Improvement is there to be seen for United after a long and tough December but winning six times, drawing twice and losing once is a good record. Undefeated in eight out of nine matches played in December.

Who is your Player of the Month for December 2019?

A look at what lies ahead in January…

United could play eight matches in January. They will start the month facing Arsenal at the Emirates on New Year’s Day. Just three days later they travel to the Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers (4/1) in the FA Cup. Three days after that, Manchester City (7/1) travel to Old Trafford in the semi-final first leg in the Carabao Cup before United welcome Norwich City (11/1) four days later.

United then get an eight-day break before travelling to Anfield in the league to face Liverpool (19/1) for the second time this season, then welcoming Burnley (22/1) to Old Trafford in the Premier League. If United beat Wolves in the FA Cup, they could then play in the fourth round of the competition before ending the month facing City in the semi-final second leg in the Carabao Cup, which will decide which Manchester team reach the final this season.

Manchester United could have some players back from injury against Liverpool but will it make a difference?

Manchester United will be back in action in the Premier League on Sunday as they welcome league leaders Liverpool to the Theatre of Dreams in the clubs first local derby of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team owe the supporters a performance worthy of the support they have been given but that could be problematic with injuries.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood have all suffered injuries with some expected to be back soon. Diogo Dalot was injured in his last match, whilst both Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah remain on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery before the end of the year.

It has been suggested in the media that Paul Pogba could be back for the Liverpool match, however, reports have also suggested that he will miss the clash. I guess if you cover both bases, you have a good chance at being right, which is something the media do at times, all in plain sight so many don’t question it, instead use it as propaganda against the manager.

Victor Lindelof is reportedly getting ready to play for Sweden against Spain on Tuesday, which could suggest he will be back in the squad to face Liverpool. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been absent for the last three matches suffering from tonsillitis, with hope that he will be able to play after sitting out for the international break also.

Luke Shaw has missed eight matches along with Anthony Martial, both of whom suffered thigh injuries in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace back in August. Shaw has been training since before the 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar, so could be ready to fortify the left-back position but Martial could still be a doubt as he might not have trained yet.

Phil Jones could also be back, although he has played just 135 minutes of football this season, is unlikely to start many big matches. Axel Tuanzebe has risen well ahead of him in the defensive ranks this season, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Solskjaer also suggested that Jesse Lingard, who missed Newcastle United defeat, may be back for this match.

Mason Greenwood, who has played a lot of football with both Martial and Marcus Rashford having time on the sidelines so far this season, suffered a lower back injury against Newcastle, which stopped him from playing for England U21s during the international break. He will be assessed ahead of the Liverpool match, which is not great news.

Diogo Dalot is also back on the sidelines through injury, suffering more of the same, to do with his hip, which kept him out earlier this season, which also suggests the problem was not solved and may have been prolonged. Not that he’s a big miss, as he is unlikely to start at right-back much this season based on his lack of experience.

Both Bailly and Fosu-Mensah are expected to be out until at least late December, in Bailly’s case, not return date for the Dutch defender, which might mean he will be out until 2020. United, however, are not crying out for defensive reinforcement yet, which is a positive at this time, not that many will see it that way. Some players seem to be made of glass now.

Hypothetically, if it were expected that Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Shaw and Pogba, Lingard and Martial were all back in the team against Liverpool, would it make much of a difference? That is a question that many will answer right away negatively, as the fan base, at least on social media is toxic and heading much deeper than that.

Some will wonder if these ‘people’ are actually supporters of the club or whether they are supporters of the decline, moaning about anything and everything. United have not had much luck this season. Injuries have been costly to this already threadbare squad and talent, determination and desire were already scarce before injury took its toll.

United should be fired up for matches such as this one against Liverpool. They were up for the clash against Chelsea at the start of the season, the best performance of the season incidentally. United has a history of playing in these big matches and all of the players who are fit to play should have the desire, determination, and hunger to achieve.

Manchester United trio ruled out of Leicester clash. Youth need to be given a chance but will they?

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed that Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba, and Anthony Martial will miss the Premier League match against Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday. It was also confirmed that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jesse Lingard have a chance to feature for United this weekend.

Solskjaer has eight players on the sidelines currently with Eric Bailly and Tim Fosu-Mensah, who are both recovering from knee injuries and Diogo Dalot, who has a hip injury. In order to find a squad capable of beating Leicester this weekend, the manager will need to draft in some of the fringe players in order to aim to get a result.

However, with the liked of Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, and Juan Mata, despite the fact they have the experience, it hardly suggests that they are going to bring in the ‘must win at all costs’ mentality. However, if talented youth players were given a chance, they will give their all in a bid to show that they are ready for the first-team.

United will no doubt miss Martial but whether they miss Pogba is another story as he has not really pulled it out of the bag this season so there is really nothing to miss. Perhaps sitting out of matches is necessary for him to find his love of the club and the game, wanting to give his all for this club, if not, is he really going to be a suitable player on the pitch?

In order for Solskjaer to continue his rebuilding of the club, he needs to look at other options at his disposal, rather than relying on players that have failed to ‘inspire and achieve’ for much of the last six years. We already know that the usual suspects will let the side down, which is not rebuilding, it is trying the same thing over and over again.

I would like to see Ethan Laird, if fit, Brandon Williams, Angel Gomes, James Garner, Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong, and maybe even Largie Ramazani given a chance this season. Some of them would be ideal at this moment in time considering the injuries in the squad. All seven of these players will fit into the areas weakened by injury.

Laird could play at right-back, Williams at left-back, Garner could fill in for Pogba, Gomes for Lingard, Greenwood for Martial with the others on the bench ready for an opportunity should they be needed. This would be a more positive approach than utilising Rojo, who wants to leave the club and Matic, who is too slow to play in this squad.

With the injury news, it is clear that Marcus Rashford will lead the line again, with Daniel James playing on the left. Greenwood could play on the right. If Solskjaer utilises the 4-3-3 formation, Gomes could be playing as the more advanced midfielder with Garner and Scott McTominay dealing with distribution and defensive midfield aspects of the game.

Not only would this send a message to those who have continued to allow the decline of this club, it would give the supporters hope that Solskjaer is the manager that will inspire youth as United really do have some great players coming through the ranks. Risks need to be taken in order to see if it could work. At least something was tested for the future.

August Review: Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James star in mixed month for Manchester United

Manchester United played four matches in the Premier League during August, winning once, drawing once and losing once. United scored six goals, conceded three goals, kept one clean sheet, won four Premier League points, and found out their fate in the Carabao Cup and the group stages of the UEFA Europa League. August gave United time between matches but September, with the international break, will be busy.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw the season start in style with a 4-0 victory over Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at Old Trafford seeing Marcus Rashford score a brace (one from the spot), Anthony Martial and Daniel James score a debut goal in front of the Stretford End. This was followed by a 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux with Anthony Martial on the scoresheet once again.

Crystal Palace defeated United 2-1 at Old Trafford. Daniel James scored a consolation goal for United, in front of the Stretford End once again. It was a poor result for United. Against Southampton, a team United needed to hit back against, it was another 1-1 draw after Daniel James opened the scoring with United having many chances, unable to cause the home side many problems.

United also found out their fate in the Carabao Cup, where they will face Rochdale at Old Trafford in the third round of the tournament, and in the UEFA Europa League, where they will face FC Astana of Kazakhstan, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in the group stages of the competition.

Marcus Rashford – four appearances, 355 minutes played, two goals scored and one assist.

Marcus Rashford started the new Premier League season well with two goals, one from the spot, against Chelsea in a 4-0 victory at Old Trafford. Rashford also got an assist against Wolves in the second match of the season, which ended his contribution, at least for goals and assists for the month. Rashford has a lot to learn and time to grow. Can he become a player that is capable of leading the line for United? We shall see.

Anthony Martial – three appearances, 270 minutes played, two goals scored and one assist.

The Frenchman was reunited with his number nine shirt after Romelu Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan this summer. It seemed to be a good thing as Martial scored the second goal against Chelsea at Old Trafford. He then continued that with a goal against Wolves. Against Crystal Palace, Martial was not a goalscorer but he got the assist before suffering an injury at the end of the match, missing the 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Daniel James – four appearances, 285 minutes played, three goals scored.

It was a great start to the Welshman’s United career. Scoring the fourth goal against Chelsea less than ten minutes after he made his debut, scoring in front of the Stretford End, Daniel James made his first start in the second match of the season, the draw with Wolves. He was not on the scoresheet in that game. Against Palace, he scored again, in front of the Stretford End, scoring the third goal of his career against Southampton. What a start for the 21-year-old who can now build on that confidence in international duty with Wales.

Notable Mentions: Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Andreas Pereira.

During the first month of the season, there have been a few players whose performances need to be mentioned. Andreas Pereira got an assist against Chelsea, Paul Pogba has two assists to his name, both against Chelsea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka has played four times for United, putting in great performances each time and Harry Maguire, who has largely been a rock at the back for the Old Trafford club. September will be a tougher month for this squad in their bid on the road to improvement.

Who is your Player of the Month for August 2019?

A look at what lies ahead in September…

In September, United will play five matches. After the first international break of the season, United start at home to Leicester City (14/9). The first Europa League match, at home to FC Astana follows (19/9), followed by West Ham United away (22/9). Then Rochdale at home in the Carabao Cup (25/9), ending the month with Arsenal at home (30/9).

Looking at Manchester United’s attacking depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United has some of the fastest attacking players in the Premier League this season. The departure of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the rumoured departure of Alexis Sanchez is going to create more chances for youth to shine at the club, which is something that is clear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about.

Anthony Martial has been given his old number nine shirt back, a number he wore when he had his best season at the club to date. Perhaps he can now kick on and put the last two years behind him and find the route to success with the club. Marcus Rashford is a player who has risen in stature and was chosen to play ahead of Lukaku last season.

A player who is now getting the same finishing training that Cristiano Ronaldo received at the club, with Solskjaer clearly looking to get Rashford firing in the goals. After his brace against Chelsea last week; one from the penalty spot, he’s certainly heading in the right direction to increase his goals this season, scoring 13 in all competitions last season.

Attacking midfield depth; five players able to play here, four of them likely to be rotated here during the season.

This is an area which some would include in the midfield, however, with the 4-2-3-1 formation which Solskjaer predominantly uses, this is considered part of the attack, which is why it has been included in this part of the series of squad depth articles. In this area, which in the 4-2-3-1 formation, focuses on the number ten position, or the second striker role.

There are five players that could play in this position; Jesse Lingard, Angel Gomes, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, and Alexis Sanchez, providing he remains at the club, which may not be the case with the links to Inter. Of course, Solskjaer could draft in more youth if this position becomes problematic. Lingard seems the clear starter, based on the Chelsea match.

If Pogba was played in this position, the midfield would struggle, unless the trusted players performed to the best of their abilities and found a way to deal with their roles, leaving Pogba to play a more creative role. However, with Gomes, Mata and to a point, Sanchez, Pogba may not need to play in this position.

Winger depth; seven players able to play in these position but two of those may not be suited.

Since Daniel James arrived from Swansea City for £15 million in the summer, there was a clear problem on the wing for United. The right-wing position was literally none existent with the likes of Mata, Lingard, Rashford, Martial and even Lukaku playing there. Since James arrived, there are more options with United able to utilise the pace of players.

There are seven players able to play on the wing; Martial, Rashford, James, Mata, Sanchez, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood. Five of the seven offer pace, ability, determination and hunger. Mata offers the ability to read the game, although a central position, when he plays, would be better for the squad.

James made his Premier League debut a week ago, coming on in the second half against Chelsea, scoring less than ten minutes later. His pace was problematic for Chelsea and he used his own mistake in the box to carve his name into the history books at the club. Greenwood, Chong, Martial and Rashford also have the pace, although one of the latter two will play a different role. The depth is alright here.

Striker depth; four players are able to play in this area but two of them are destined to lead the line

This is the area which despite Lukaku leaving the club this summer, could well be problematic for Solskjaer. He never replaced the Belgian and unless he has a plan to sign a free agent, will probably stick to what he has in the squad. Martial has led the line against Chelsea and Rashford is also capable of playing here.

Looking at the depth, there are other options which include Greenwood, Sanchez (if he stays), and Lingard (to a point). It may look a bit weak if you look past Martial and Rashford but for one position in the team, there are four options, with more if you look to the academy. D’Mani Bughail-Mellor has scored a few goals for the U23s already this season.

I am not suggesting that he’s ready to play for the first team, however, was Rashford ready before he scored the brace against Midtjylland back in February 2016, then following suit against Arsenal in the Premier League days later? Solskjaer has a few different options and if he tries other players out in this position, he might find that he has more.

I would suggest that this is going to be between both Rashford and Martial for the large part of the season. If Rashford leads the line, Martial could be rested with James playing on the left-wing. If Martial starts, Rashford could play on the left, or James could play there, giving Rashford a rest. It is obviously not the best but could work.

If Sanchez stays this season, I am not saying he will be a starter, but he will be an option, but if rumours are true, he has asked to leave the club and could be on his way out. Could Solskjaer sign a free agent to bolster his side? There are options, although not great ones. I think he would prefer to utilise the talented youth players in the mix.

With Rashford working on his finishing and Martial looking to overcome a turbulent time at United, it could be the winner that everyone is hoping for. There are good players in both of these two and it is about time that they showed themselves and stood up to be counted. If Solskjaer manages to turn the tide with this squad, he can do anything.

The formation above shows the depth in all four of the attacking positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation. If different formations are played, the depth will still be there but it will obviously increase/decrease in various positions. Solskjaer will have a plan of what he is aiming to achieve this season. He also has an idea of the players he will need to target either in January or next summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson once said that ‘attack wins you matches but defence wins you titles’. The defence is the strongest part of United’s squad with the attack being the second strongest area in the squad. The midfield has weaknesses which need to be strengthened but that could be done without money, giving youth players opportunities over time.

Obviously, supporters of the club expected major changes this summer, which was never going to happen. Every summer you see supporters demanding that players are sold etc but in most cases, it does not happen as it is not an easy thing to do. Then, toxicity comes into the fan base and people moan incessantly, which is boring.

Does Anthony Martial have the mental resilience to succeed at Manchester United?

Anthony Martial, Manchester United’s 23-year-old forward will be looking to make his mark on Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s new-look squad. Focused on speed and transition in attack, Martial seems like a perfect fit for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Although, despite exploding onto the scene with a memorial goal against fierce rivals Liverpool, Martial has failed to kick on to show fans the level required for a United forward.

It must be asked, does he have the mentality to succeed at United? In the early parts of the 2016/17 season under Jose Mourinho, Martial was interchanged with Marcus Rashford at key periods of the game. For the first few games of the season, it has seemed as if though the rotation was working, with both wide men looking to stake a claim for a starting position.

However, following the announcements of the French National team and Martial’s subsequent dismissal, his performances significantly dropped. It is understandable that a player will feel disappointed in not getting his call up to International level, but surely this could be used as motivation to perform well and get into the next squad. Mourinho is often critiqued for how he treats young players.

However, Luke Shaw is a strong example of why the harsh treatment may help develop some sort of mental resilience, with his performances improving as the season progressed. Unfortunately, Martial did not respond in the same manner and found himself lost in the abyss.

The summer of 2018 saw Martial failing to reach the squad for the eventual winners of the world cup. Impounding more issues on Martial, during pre-season Mourinho called out Martial for taking a prolonged break due to the birth of his second child. His failure to reach the squad and continued call-outs by his club manager saw Martial at a crossroad in his United career.

Come the 2018/2019 season, Martial performed well, seemingly with a point to prove scoring nine goals scored across all competitions (September-December). This level of performance saw Martial called up to the French squad, with Didier Deschamps hailing the strikers maturity. However, continued talk of unrest with club manager Mourinho saw Martial’s days at the club numbered.

In December, Mourinho was sacked by the club, following a dismal showing against Liverpool. Martial almost immediately responded by signing a new contract in January and thanking caretaker boss Solskjaer for his ‘belief’. Clearly, the relationship with Mourinho had its impact. Despite the managerial change, Martial failed to regain his early-season form in 2018/19 scoring just three goals across all competitions for the remainder of the season.

Perhaps a hangover from the Mourinho regime. Martial has a lot to prove before the United faithful can truly call him a worthy wearer of the number 11, although, on Friday, it was confirmed that Martial has been reunited with the number nine shirt in which he had his best season at the club. Nobody is denying the talent of Anthony Martial. Although, his seeming ability to produce hot/cold streaks are not good enough to be a consistent feature in this new United squad.

The early season will be pivotal in shaping Martial’s future. Whilst he is bound to get more game time under Solskjaer and pre-season looking promising, his inclusion in the French squad in the first international break will most likely shape how he performs for the rest of the season. With UEFA Euro 2020 fast approaching, Martial must remain consistent throughout the season and if he is dismissed in the first squad it must be used as motivation to kick on and stake his claim.

Written by Adam Bermingham

The suitability of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial

Throughout his time at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has frequently referred to ‘Manchester United DNA’. The inference of this statement is a team which features exciting, young prospects, with a desire to give everything for the club. This sentiment may be translated into actions in the forthcoming weeks, as rumours are rife regarding the potential departures of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.

In the 2018/19 season, Pogba provided 13 goals, while Lukaku bagged 12 goals. Therefore, their departures will cause United to have to find their goal contributions from elsewhere in the team. The two most obvious candidates to step up to the plate appear to be Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who arguably have an immense footballing ability, as well as ‘Manchester United DNA’.

In regards to ‘Manchester United DNA’, it could be argued that Marcus Rashford embodies the sentiment. The story of Rashford is a football fairy tale, rising through the ranks of United to burst into the first team at the age of 18. While Rashford ticks all the off-pitch requirements for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his ability also seems undeniably exciting.

In the three years that Rashford has been in the first team squad, he has provided 27 goals. In contrast, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 18 goals in the same period of time. Furthermore, Rashford’s physical development has been sensational, developing from a scrawny looking teenager to having immense physical prowess. If Lukaku does depart the club, Rashford seems like the most likely candidate to be United’s leading number nine.

The prospect of Rashford starting a whole season as the main striker is an exciting one, especially as Rashford was predominantly played out wide by Jose Mourinho. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer persists with his new pressing based philosophy, Rashford seems the perfect candidate to enact Solskjaer’s instructions, as he’s blessed with pace and stamina, as well as the ability to interchange with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard. 

In relation to Anthony Martial, the Frenchman’s candidacy to be at the fore-front of the Solskjaer era appears to be significantly more doubtful than that of Marcus Rashford. While Rashford is arguably a unanimous fan favourite, Anthony Martial has received some criticism in the past 12 months, predominantly in relation to his attitude. Martial is seen by a minority of fans as being lazy, and not fully invested in the cause.

The constant omission of Martial under Jose Mourinho reflected this view. However, in terms of ability, Martial is unquestionably one of the most exciting prospects in Europe. The mesmerising dribbling ability that Martial possesses, fits the mantra of a Manchester United forward. In addition, Martial’s finishing ability is sublime, especially considering the forward is only 23 years old.

In relation to filling the goals void left by Pogba and Lukaku, Martial’s statistical evidence suggests he’s the perfect candidate. Since joining United, Martial has scored 34 goals in the Premier League, while providing 17 assists. However, an aspect of his game that Martial may have to improve is his work rate.

This is due to the fact Solskjaer will demand tireless pressing and desire from his forwards, echoed by the Norwegian’s heavy focus on fitness so far in ‘Pre-Season’. Statistically speaking, Martial covered 160km in the 2018/19 season, while Rashford covered 254km. This shows that work ethic may be a key area for Martial to focus on if he’s to be at the fore front of Solskjaer’s plans.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to build a team that reflects ‘Manchester United DNA’, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford seem like the perfect candidates. Not only can the two young forwards compensate for the goals potentially lost by the departure of Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, but the ability of the two forwards to operate in an interchangeable front line appears to be perfect for Manchester United.

While Martial needs to improve on the distance he covers, the fitness regime imposed by Solskjaer will presumably help the Frenchman in that regard. A key criticism of the ‘Post-Ferguson era’ is that United have been dull to watch, but if Martial and Rashford come to the fore, Manchester United could once again, provide scintillating entertainment. 

Written by Alexei Braithwaite

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinking about selling Anthony Martial based on the players poor attitude

Anthony Martial has always been a player who has brought excitement to Manchester United. He is a player that has the talent to be something and has shown this in glimpses, although not consistently. However, his attitude is something to worry about and also the main thing that could confirm him as yet another player not to make it at the Theatre of Dreams.

On Monday, the agency that represents Martial posted a defence of the player on Instagram, aiming to make people understand that he’s just as talented as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham by scoring goals on par with these individuals in fewer matches. However, that means nothing when it is clear to see that the attitude of the player sucks, which is why rumours have surfaced about his future at the club.

The 23-year-old arrived at the Old Trafford club nearly four years ago, costing £36 million at the time but clauses in his contract have also been paid, making that outlay much higher. Martial was instantly branded as a ‘waste of money’ by the British media, something which bit them very quickly after the player’s debut which saw him scoring at Old Trafford against Liverpool.

Since signing for United, Martial has played in 173 matches, scoring 48 goals in all competitions. Whether that increases in the final match of the season where United will welcome Cardiff City to the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday, will depend on whether his attitude changes in training and whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels he could add something to his flailing squad.

This season, Martial has played a part in 36 matches, scoring 12 goals also adding two assists. When you factor in that Paul Pogba is the clubs top scorer this season, with 16 goals, Romelu Lukaku is second with 15 goals and Marcus Rashford third with 13 goals, it leaves Martial in fourth place, scoring twice as many goals as Juan Mata, who is fifth. If you just look at those figures, it makes it seem like Martial is succeeding. However, that is obviously not the case as the team is not succeeding at anything right now.

Martial last scored a goal for United in the 2-1 victory over Watford on the 30 March 2019. He has played in seven matches since, not achieving much for his club. Recently in the warm-up at Old Trafford ahead of the Chelsea draw, Martial did not seem to put much effort in. That could be telling in the state of his attitude at the club. If this is one of the reasons by Solskjaer may consider selling him this summer, it is a good reason.

Martial FC will always defend their ‘superstar’ which is quite funny at times. When they don’t seem to get anywhere in the defence of this slacker, they start to accuse racism as the reason for the criticism of the petulant Frenchman. Playing the race card in issues such as this, just to defend a player who quite obviously is not pulling his weight or putting in an effort, is pretty pathetic.

Personally, I would like to see Martial perform to the best of his abilities for this club but there is a clear problem in the dressing room and players do not seem to be putting themselves on the line for this club, just happily coasting through matches whilst putting in the bare minimum collecting their massively inflated wages every week and living millionaire lifestyles away from the spotlight.

Player power is a problem at any club as the manager should be the one in control of the squad but when you have bad apples in the dressing room, the longer they stay there, the more chances of those bad apples making the other apples bad. United will have their work cut out this summer to solve the problems that the club has created for themselves.

If Martial can change his attitude and look like he is enjoying being a Manchester United player, putting in 100% of the effort required and helping drive the team forward, I am sure he will be forgiven by most. But if he is not prepared to do any of that, the door should be opened, he should be pushed through it and make sure he is not close to it when it slams shut.

copyright: JW