Players who score memorable goals against Liverpool will get a career’s worth of goodwill from Manchester United fans. Add in the formidable and exciting talent, and a catchy song that the terraces enjoy, and Anthony Martial is 3 for 3 in factors that boost a player’s popularity. As the tide of fan opinion turned against José Mourinho early last season, the manager’s frequent ostracism of Martial was another stick with which to beat the Portuguese. When Martial’s form picked up to the point where Mourinho had to play him, it was seen as a triumph. Here was one of the few bright spots in a dreary season, prospering in spite of being held back by negative tactics and a lack of trust.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho in December, he quickly settled on his favored front six, which featured Martial on the left of the attack. The Frenchman continued his good form, and the following month he finally signed a new five year contract — a looming danger that had become more of an issue as time wore on. Martial should have been in an ideal position to kick on and solidify his place as a key member of the new manager’s team. Instead, Martial’s form took a nosedive from which it never recovered. The goals dried up, and worst of all, Tony’s workrate seemed to get worse than ever.
Instead of incisive runs at defenders, Martial could regularly be seen to give up possession with an ill-advised dead-end foray. Elusive dribbling was replaced with half-hearted and predictable moves. One of the criticisms of Martial’s young attacking partner Marcus Rashford this season is that he so often is frustrated and exasperated on the pitch. But in Rashford’s defense, the frustration often arises because he makes intelligent runs that his teammates fail to pick out. With Martial, by the end of the season, there was very little movement at all. While the talent may be undeniable, Martial will have to buck up his ideas this summer and start the new season with a much-improved focus. 2019/20 could be a make or break year for his Manchester United career. BM
Anthony Martial was appropriately dubbed Martial FC halfway through the year due to his rise in form when Ole Gunnar Solskjær took the reins. By the second half of the season, the Frenchman had become a regular starter up top alongside Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford. His improved performances earned him a well-earned five-year extension. Unfortunately, a catchy moniker and a lucrative contract didn’t translate to goals on the pitch. In his final 11 appearances of this campaign, Martial only found the back of the net once. Even worse, the 23-year-old pick up a groin injury during United 2-0 loss against PSG in the Champions League.
Since then, he often looked detached from play, a different Anthony Martial fans were used to seeing in the weeks following Mourinho’s sacking. That could be a result of his injury spell; word is he still hasn’t fully recovered from that February groin sprain. With five more years at Old Trafford, Martial must regroup in the manner he knows how. Otherwise, he could find himself back on his manager’s shortlist of players to offload. VN