On September 12, 2015, the world was subjected to an exclamation previously only uttered in private by Martin Tyler.
The world’s most expensive teenager, Anthony Martial debuted in one of the most sensational ways a United fan could dream up. Effortlessly slicing through Liverpool defenders, the 65th minute substitute embarrassed the Liverpool defense and scored on a delicious solo effort that iced the match for United and stuck it to the club’s most-hated rival.
“Tony Martial came from France,
The English press said he had no chance,
£50m down the drain,
Tony Martial scores again!”
Anthony became Tony that day, and United’s newest number nine dazzled supporters despite playing in a no-frills Louis van Gaal system. His pace with the ball at his feet, coupled with his ruthlessness in the box, proved that he was going to find the back of the net consistently for the Red Devils from either the left wing or in the center of the attack. By the end of the season, the French forward was the club’s leading scorer in all competitions, and the sky appeared to be the limit.
However, in the following years, Martial found himself relegated to wearing the number 11 on the left wing while new number nines Zlatan Ibrahimović and then Romelu Lukaku played up the middle for José Mourinho. Martial still flashed his brilliance but, without having the full confidence of Mourinho, failed to grow into the role of a lethal goalscorer.
Now, roughly 24 hours after Romelu Lukaku’s departure to Inter Milan, the club announced that Martial would again wear his coveted number nine shirt that he did not willingly give up three years ago. The number change also coincides with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s preseason experimentation that saw Martial play more centrally in the exhibition matches.
Solskjaer held court today to discuss the team’s future following the closing of the transfer window. When asked about the team’s reluctance to bring in a replacement for Lukaku, Solskjaer backed Martial as one of the reasons for not needing to bring in a new forward.
Solskjaer on Rashford and Martial replacing Lukaku’s goals, “Rom is one of the top 9s around when you want to play with that kind of striker, but I’m confident we’ll get goals from Martial and Rashford. We have a very different attacking setup this season.”— Chris Winterburn (@cmwinterburn) August 9, 2019
While the end of the transfer window left a bad taste in many fans’ mouths, there are still reasons to be cautiously optimistic. Surely, if Martial finds his form from the 2015-16 season while playing in Solskjaer’s system, supporters will have a lot of goals to celebrate this upcoming season.
In other squad number news, Harry Maguire was confirmed as the new inhabitant of the vacant no. 5 shirt, Daniel James takes over no. 21 from Ander Herrera, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka keeps the no. 29 that he wore in pre-season. Angel Gomes (no. 28) and Mason Greenwood (no. 26) also got new squad numbers to reflect their new senior-ish team status.
What do you say, Reds? Are you excited to see Martial sporting his original number again? Leave your comments and goal predictions below. Single-digit goal predictions for Martial will be flagged as harassment.