From being the costliest teenager in 2015 to not getting called for the World Cup 2018, Anthony
Martial’s career at Manchester United has been full of peaks and valleys. This time, it might be the
lowest point of his time at the club as speculations of his departure are taking pace.
Although there have been no public statements by either the player or the manager Jose Mourinho,
the player’s desire to have more game time than now is well known by the football world. Jose
Mourinho is also known for not going against the players will if he wants to seek opportunities
elsewhere. The recent examples would be Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin.
‘Should Jose sell Anthony Martial this season?’, If you ask this question to the fans, former players and football pundits, the answer will be more No than Yes.
Martial has certainly been a fans’ favourite since his dream debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford
when he scored a sensational solo goal in front of the Stretford End. His first season was a success
not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of being emerged as one of Europe’s top prospects.
According to most of the United fans, the best thing Van Gaal gave to the club was probably Anthony Martial. Some might argue it was promoting Rashford to the first team, but for a talent like him, it wouldn’t have been difficult to impress any other manager and make his way into the first team. But getting a teenager from Monaco, to a much difficult league for £50million was certainly a risky decision, which the player paid off. Everyone was expecting Martial to establish his place in the playing 11 for long term. But things haven’t gone the same way for him.
So, what exactly has gone with Anthony Martial at Manchester United?
In his second season at United, apart from some personal problems which mentally took Martial
away from the football field, there have been more than one reasons for his descent. One of the
biggest issues with Jose Mourinho was, or for that matter will always be, is to keep both Martial and Rashford happy at the same time. Extraordinary talents of young age playing in the same position! It isn’t easy. Martial is a natural left winger who likes to cut in more than to go to the flag and deliver the ball into the box. Rashford however, can play on either wings or as a CF. Martial enjoyed his style of play under Van Gaal, but with Mkhitaryan and Zlatan coming in, It was clearly Martial vs Rashford for the place of LW.
In Football, no matter how good you play, if you don’t fit in manager’s tactics, you are bound to
struggle for your place. Same thing happened with Anthony Martial. Naturally talented and attack
minded Martial was favourite to start in all matches under Mourinho with Rashford coming as a
substitute under Jose. But things were exactly opposite. For a defensive tactician like Jose, a wingeris often required to come in defensive positions when you don’t have the ball. In Jose’s own words, ‘We attack with 11 players, and we defend with 11 players’.
This has always troubled Martial. Rashford has been far better than Martial when it comes to
defending or tracking back. For that matter, Martial lost his place even to the likes of Mata and
Lingard. In Jose’s 2 nd season, things were expected to get more difficult for Martial and Rashford. Lukaku, the 75million Belgian, anchored himself in the striker’s position. Mata, Mkhitaryan were showing their individual piece of magic in the first few matches of the season. Lingard was showing signs of progress at the business end of previous season. A late bloomer! With either two of Mkhitaryan, Mata or Lingard occupying the RW and CAM positions, it again came down to Martial vs Rashford for the place of LW.
Martial could have forced Jose to play him over Rashford with his dribbling skills and attacking
brilliance, and he almost did it. The problem was about consistency. With Lukaku getting side-lined
with injury for few weeks in the first half of the season, Martial did have a spell of few matches
where he could’ve silenced the critics. But he failed to do so. Jose also tried to play Martial and
Rashford together, but that failed miserably too.
Just when Martial thought things couldn’t get any worse, In January, struggling Henrik Mkhitaryan
was replaced by Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal. A LW in place of a RW. Alexis, being a versatile
attacker, can actually play in any position and affect the game. But he too prefers the left side.
Mourinho did try playing Martial on the right but he hasn’t been as effective on the right.
In spite of all the odds going against him, Anthony has not failed to impress his fans and the manager on his good days. There have been ample examples of him making a good defender look Semi-Pro by his dribbling skills. Former players like Paul Scholes have recently spoken high of him in public.
‘I think he’s a really good talent, as I say young, there’s still time, I think he needs a bit of love he
needs an arm around him’- Paul Scholes
All in all, it’s been a difficult couple of years for Anthony Martial and there are no signs of things
getting easier. Jose will look to strengthen his squad with maybe another attacker. Martial will have
plenty of time to ponder his future this summer after being left out of Deschamps’ 23-man squad for
the World Cup, despite playing the friendly draw against Germany last March.
Whether to work hard and get a place in the squad of the biggest English team, or to get an easier
work life somewhere away from Old Trafford is entirely his choice. But, if you ask a Manchester
United supporter about the situation? Anthony Martial is to Stay!
We really love to sing,
Tony Martial came from France,
English press said he had no chance,
50 million down the drain,
As Tony martial scores again!
Written by Atharva Desai