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