Anthony Martial just as good as Kylian Mbappe says Mikael Silvestre

Anthony Martial has been backed by his French compatriot Mikael Silvestre to get back to his best this coming season in a big to regain the confidence of Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and the club’s supporters. Martial made the initial £36 million to the Old Trafford club on transfer deadline day back in 2015 and was deemed a ‘panic buy’ and a ‘waste of money’ by the media in the United Kingdom because he was only 18 at the time. That soon turned around on the media as Martial was given his debut against Liverpool in the Premier League at Old Trafford, scoring minutes after coming on with United taking all three points in the match. That was under Louis van Gaal and Martial’s debut season was a good one – 17 goals in all competitions – a great start.

Under Jose Mourinho, Martial seemed to have second season syndrome, failing to find that form which set alight the Premier League the season before, not putting in the effort and being overlooked and criticised by the Portuguese manager. Martial was a peripheral figure for United and that needed to change as his best form is yet to come and he needs to produce that or be labelled a ‘waste of money’ by the on looking media as they love to grind the axe over a United player, seemingly allowing players at other clubs to get away with anything. Manchester United is where the attention seems to remain, even despite many suggesting United are a fallen club who are going to do ‘a Liverpool’ – not win a league title for 27 plus years.

Earlier this summer, Martial was said to be unhappy by the British media and a likely figure to depart the Old Trafford club. Martial scuppered those rumours by tweeting that the reports were all lies, something he has done before, nipping the rumour in the bud. A few weeks later the Frenchman was linked to AS Roma, seemingly another lie to unsettle the player or make United look inferior in the media, especially after United had led the media on for much of the summer with the pursuit of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, moving for former Everton striker Romelu Lukaku in a £75 million deal instead, all under the noses of the media, until a point and more importantly Chelsea who had the player stolen from under their noses.

Silvestre, a former United and Arsenal defender, before moving to the MLS had defended his fellow countryman suggesting that he is as good as AS Monaco star Kylian Mbappe, who has been linked with a £100 million plus move with various clubs this summer, seemingly opting to remain at the principality club for another year. Mbappe was the replacement for Martial after he signed for United, something Monaco seem to be very good at doing. The squad they had assembled last season has now been split up with Bernardo Silva leaving for Manchester City with Benjamin Mendy in their radar also, but with new arrivals coming in. Fabinho is linked with an exit too, Tiemoue Bakayoko is on his way to Chelsea, which sees the club looking to do the same again. The Mirror reported Silvestre as saying:

“When you reach that level and you then have a difficult time, you bounce back, because you’re a competitor. Anthony has reached the level of Manchester United and the French national team, so I think he will improve his game to perform at least at the same level as the first season. The turning point for me was the Euros in France. He was ­substituted in one game, he’d had a difficult first half, and after that, he didn’t play ­any more. Sometimes, when you take a slap to the back of the head, it’s difficult to bounce back, and all season he was ­trying to get back to his best. But his character is a good one, so I think he’ll answer the critics and do better.”

Silvestre has been impressed by Martial in the club’s first few training sessions ahead of the commencement of their pre-season tour against LA Galaxy on Saturday evening (early hours of Sunday in the United Kingdom), which is a good start to impressing the manager, Jose Mourinho, going into the pre-season matches, of which there are five in the United States of American alone with another two in Europe (Norway and Ireland) before United play their first competitive match of the summer to contest the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid, the second time they would play the La Liga and UEFA Champions League holders this summer. Silvestre was asked if Martial was at the same level as Mbappe, the Frenchman said:

“Definitely. Every time he touches the ball, even out here in training, you can sense the danger. Defenders… I wouldn’t say they’re afraid, but you don’t dive into a challenge when you’re facing Anthony [Martial], because he can go left or right, and beat you with speed.”

Silvestre also suggested that Martial felt intimidated by the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last summer with the Swedish striker taking his number off him and eventually scoring 28 goals in all competitions before his season was wrecked by a serious knee injury, which he is still recovering from now. Ibrahimovic has been linked with United again pending a big announcement about his future, but LA Galaxy and LA FC, the newest MLS franchise coming in 2018 have also been linked with the veteran striker. The Frenchman speaking about Ibrahimovic and Martial said:

“Zlatan’s aura was big, his character, his ego, and what he was spreading around him was sometimes intimidating for the younger players. But also it gives you an ­example to follow, so it was good to have him around.”

Last season, Mourinho used tough love to get the best out of Martial, which seems to have worked with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and before injury Luke Shaw. The Portuguese manager publicly called Martial out on his performances in a bid to get more from the player, who at the time was suffering from a turbulent time in his personal life, which is not an excuse for the player. Silvestre feels Mourinho’s approach started to work with the player as you could see the performances coming and Martial seemed much more focused at times. Silvestre continue by saying:

“I don’t know him well enough to say if it’s more love or a tougher style that he needs, but young players… I was the same – need to be told the truth, so you work harder the next day. But I think it did [work]. He worked harder, he tried to stay focused on the pitch for 90 minutes. There was also talk about him leaving the club, but he came out and said ‘I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to try to impose myself here’. That shows the character and the type of person he is, so I’m hopeful for next season.”

Silvestre also spoke about United £89 million capture of Paul Pogba almost a year ago also suggesting that the Frenchman will become ‘an even more influential figure’ at the club this coming season. At the time Pogba signed for United, the season had started with the player missing the FA Community Shield and the first Premier League match of the season, a suspension picked up in Italy and carried over in England. Pogba was on holiday until the day he signed for United, which meant he did not have a pre-season, this year being his first which could go a long way to giving him a better start to the upcoming season. Silvestre said:

“He came after a long season for Juventus, then he played at the Euros with France and got injured, so he had to catch up with the rest of the squad. When he signed, the price tag was extra pressure on him, so I think he’s responded well. Obviously, there’s room for improvement, because we haven’t seen him have his best season.But I’m hopeful that on the back of a good rest and full preparation with the rest of the squad, he’ll have a better season.”

United will be a much better team this coming season, the arrivals of Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku will go a long way to showing that with the defence effectively strengthened with Lindelof and last summers arrival Eric Bailly seemingly set for a defensive partnership for much of the season. Lukaku will bring goals, no matter what his first touch is like, which some seem to criticise, which is something I find pathetic. Lukaku scored 25 goals in the Premier League alone for Everton last season and with a better mix of players in the squad, that could bring even more out of the Belgian, who has brought more excitement to the club this summer. The transfers do not seem over yet either with reports Mourinho has £100 million to spend yet with a winger and at least one central midfielder being sought.

copyright: JW