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What is going wrong with Anthony Martial?

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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

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