Tensions are high, Old Trafford is silent, excluding the chants of ‘Liverpool’ being bellowed from the away end. With less than five minutes to play, Louis van Gaal’s side lead 2-1 after an emphatic bicycle-kick from Christian Benteke gave Liverpool a glimmer of hope in the dying minutes. A glimmer destroyed by the introduction of Anthony Joran Martial.
On the 37th second in the 85th minute, Ashley Young makes his first pass to his new team-mate, Martial, totally unaware what was about to happen. The words uttered by Martin Tyler would later enter United folklore. “Martial, he’s isolated Škrtel here, Ohhhhh yes! Welcome to Manchester United, Anthony Martial’.
Then, silence. Tyler, nor Neville, knew enough superlatives that would be fitting for the situation they had just seen. The £56m panic buy had not only silenced the English press, but United’s biggest rivals just minutes into his first taste of English football.
The Massy-born forward was set for greatness in a Manchester United shirt after his first season. At 19-years-old, Martial scored 17 goals in his first season at Old Trafford, matching Lionel Messi’s tally of 17 whilst the Argentine was the same age. He then picked up the Golden Boy award, which signifies the most impressive under-21 player in Europe.
Fast forward 18 months, Anthony Martial has become to forgotten man. Second-season syndrome, some would call it, however, Martial’s transformation into a potential Ballon d’Or winner to a player who’s attitude gestures ‘he doesn’t care’ in the eyes of some Manchester United fans is utterly baffling. Not only are fans excluding him from starting line-up predictions for next season, but some would be happy to flog the Frenchman for the likes of Ivan Perišić.
The 2016/2017 season was one worth forgetting for the forward, but it’s a learning curve. At 21, Martial has played under Claudio Ranieri, Leonardo Jardim, Louis van Gaal and now José Mourinho. Four different managers, all wanting and demanding different things. Of course, Martial, as a professional footballer, should be able to deal with these things. However, Mourinho is probably the most demanding of the four, and it’s no surprise Martial hasn’t been able to hit off with him straight away.
It’s also worth noting that Martial is ten days younger than Manchester United youth product, Josh Harrop, a player who’s made one league appearance for United. Just because Martial hasn’t started every single game, or performed the best at every moment he’s had, doesn’t mean José Mourinho hasn’t seen the talent he holds.
Manchester United are a club that requires results. Every game, they’re expected to win. Mourinho once said that he ‘can’t wait for players to mature’, but for me, Martial’s case is different. He’s not an academy product, nor is he in the prime age of his career. He’s 21, yet held the pressure of Manchester United’s season under Louis van Gaal on his shoulders. A 92nd-minute winner from Martial at Wembley saw United progress to the FA Cup final, a result which van Gaal’s time at Manchester United heavily depended on. United’s number 11 is not weak, not mentally, nor physically.
Martial chose to arrive at Old Trafford with a massive fee on his head, he didn’t know anyone, and he didn’t speak English, so to suggest his time up at Manchester United is mind-boggling. Mourinho has set the tempo for the 21-year-old going into next season. He now knows he’s not undroppable but has also learned what pleases Mourinho, and what doesn’t. Despite how disappointing this season was, in the Premier League, Martial recorded a tally of 10 goals and assists, scoring 4 and assisting 6. Leroy Sané, who pundits tipped for Young Player Of The Year, scored a combined total of 8, scoring 5 and assisting 3 times, playing 234 more minutes than Martial. Of course, Sané’s performances were much more impressive, but those expecting an output hitting the 20’s from Martial are just lying to themselves.
Despite how disappointing this season was, in the Premier League, Martial recorded a tally of 10 goals and assists, scoring 4 and assisting 6. Leroy Sané, who pundits tipped for Young Player Of The Year, recorded a combined total of 8, scoring 5 and assisting 3 times, playing 234 more minutes than Martial. Of course, Sané’s performances were much more impressive, but those expecting an output hitting the 20’s from Martial are just lying to themselves. Toto is nowhere near finished at Manchester United as far as I’m aware, and hopefully, his song will be ringing around Old Trafford again come next season.