Let’s rewind to the end of the summer transfer window. I, like many United fans was disappointed. We had not followed up the brilliant signings of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger with a recognised forward. Not just any forward, but a forward with some pedigree on the big stage, a player, who we have needed so badly since Robin Van Persie’s form dramatically tapered off over the last 18 months. A lot of the fans have been wondering, is it ever going to get better for United? Can we not attract the best players?
Anthony Martial was signed on deadline day for £36 million, rising to a possible eye watering £58 million. Angel di Maria was signed for £56 million in comparison. Man United have no fear in spending big, but this transfer surprised everyone. It’s fair to say, the majority of Football fans had no idea who this boy was.
Fast forward to this weekend – the important game against Arsenal, Martial has to start.
We all know football can change in a few weeks, but this was unexpected. We suddenly look dangerous at any opportunity going forward. Much of this recent turnaround centers around Martial. His dynamic play, electric change of pace, physical power and unquestionable quality in the box coupled with a cool persona; he has rejuvenated our front line.
Suddenly, everyone in the team has a focal point. It’s not, pass the ball to Memphis, any more. We have a proper centre forward on our hands, and other teams will be fearing him. It is remarkable how quickly he has settled in the Premier league. In recent times, it has taken a long time for players to settle in this league, especially when young. Martial may be 19, but he has a frame of a more experienced footballer, far beyond his actual age. He can cope with the physicality demanded in this league. He not only shows his individual raw attributes in the game, but he has also shown intelligent play and movement to bring others into the game, especially Juan Mata. He has been far more influential since Martial has led the front line. Memphis will also flourish, as the expectation on him has been reduced.
An unknown to most football fans, apparently, Manchester United were monitoring Martial’s progress for the last 2 years. We acted quickly, as soon as Monaco did not qualify for the Champion’s League. Martial’s potential is not just recognized by United. Monaco have revealed, another top European club outbid United, but Martial’s choice was Old Trafford, of course.
A product of Olympique Lyonais’ academy, he was prolific in the U17 youth teams, scoring 32 goals in 21 games. He was consequently called up to French national U17 team shortly after, and scored in world tournaments. Consequently he was promoted to Lyon’s senior squad, playing a handful of games, and not long after, being snapped up by Claudio Ranieri at Monaco. At Monaco, he was hardly prolific, but what is clear, is that he starts quickly wherever he is. This was evident in the Liverpool game; a goal to be savoured. His main attributes are his electric pace and his domination in 1 v 1 situations, however, on the flip side, has been known to lack focus in developing his career further. Even though he is young, Louis Van Gaal will probably demand more than his previous coaches ever did. Given his track record with young players, namely Xavi and Iniesta. Martial is in good hands.
Louis Van Gaal has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation this season. Martial fits in this system perfectly. This is the formation most modern European football teams are playing now. With his flexibility in playing wide left or wide right, there is a definite fluidity to our attack now, which has been quite static at times in the past year. Manuel Pellegrini, when at Malaga, used to play a 4-2-2-2 formation. Perhaps this is a possibility for us in the future. With Carrick ageing, Wayne Rooney is a likely candidate to partner Schneiderlin or Schweinsteiger in midfield. This leaves potentially, an exciting front 4, from this six: Memphis, Januzaj, Mata, Herrera, Perreira and Martial. The future is exciting for United.
There may be some questions on whether United should buy another striker and protect Martial’s talent. There is a real risk of players burning out in the latter parts of their careers, especially as they start so young. In the modern day, expectations are sky high and this can be difficult to deal with for young players, when there is an inevitable dip in form. Under Louis Van Gaal, Martial’s form will most definitely dictate his appearances. Cristiano Ronaldo made it difficult to keep him out of the team. At present, it appears the same with Martial. Most fans would agree, he is better as a centre forward this season than Wayne Rooney. His link up play with Memphis and Juan Mata is excellent, and his hold up play and finding a key pass has been exciting to watch. His willingness to pursue the ball down both flanks has opened up spaces for the players behind him, something that was missing all the way through the previous season. This in turn has made United more penetrative and giving the possession game an end result. The combination of Memphis and Martial has instilled a fear of the counter attack in our opponents due to the electrifying pace on tap. We must not forget, he is only young and we will not always see his ability. James Wilson should be the player to provide some competition, which will be healthy for Martial, as he has been known to lack focus at his previous club.
This is a job well done by Ed Woodward and Louis Van Gaal. We must remember, although the fans wanted another marquee signing, there has to be some availability of these players. The money spent on Martial is now a blur, what is clear, he is the type of player United really needed.