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What next for Anthony Martial?

Uncertainty surrounds the future of Manchester United’s no. 9, but does that mean it’s time for him to go?

Manchester United v A.C. Milan - UEFA Europa League Round Of 16 Leg One Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

There is much uncertainty over Anthony Martial’s future at Old Trafford. With so much moving forward for the club there is a feeling yet that the French forward, once Manchester United’s Golden Boy, will soon be surplus to requirements. According to some rumors, he may already be considered expendable. It is important to remember however that we are not far removed from what was considered Martial’s true coming of age. In 2019/20 Anthony Martial scored 23 goals in all competitions, including 17 in the Premier League. He was crucial during Project Restart, which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side clinch a 3rd place finish in the league, and reach the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and UEFA Europa League. This past season however saw a dramatic and unexpected drop.

After the best campaign of his career in 2019/20 Martial’s form and luck fell hard in 2020/21. He scored just 4 goals in 22 Premier League appearances, and suffered from lingering injuries throughout the campaign. He went down at unfortunate times as well, in December and in March, both times as it seemed he was finding form again. There have been some rumors indicating Martial could be sold this summer, but there are still a lot of reasons to hold onto the 25 year old. He’s very useful when he hits form, which has happened at least once a season until this past one, and he’s a natural finisher with a good partnership in place with Marcus Rashford. Martial finally seemed to break his reputation as a streaky scorer in 2019/20, but he was also lucky to avoid injury in that time. This past season was a worst case scenario in terms of following that up.

But do we chalk this past season up to bad luck and poor form, or do we take this as an indicator that he is no longer a first-choice striker for the side?

One argument in support of the latter is the emergence of Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani as top options late last season. Cavani, now 34, is unlikely to stay at Old Trafford past this coming season. It took some effort to persuade him to stay an additional year after he turned on down the stretch, which was paired with renewed rumors near the end of the season of the club’s interest in striker Harry Kane. With Kane wanting out at Spurs Tottenham have been linked with a few strikers, with Martial being one of them.

It should be noted that the timing of this rumor fell in with some time between England’s Euro games, and fed off of the attention and circulation generated by the imminent Jadon Sancho move.

It seems unlikely that United will pursue Kane now, but interest in upgrading at the position has been constant since Solskjaer took over. They were hoping to land Erling Haaland before Dortmund secured his services, and were also linked with Ousmane Dembele before securing Cavani’s services. Cavani was deemed at the time to be a depth addition, but United developed a reliance on him for goals by the end of the season, partly due to Martial’s absence and poor form.

With Jadon Sancho coming in there are variety of options for Solskjaer to test on the forward line. Sancho can play on either wing or just behind the striker, and his partnership options are wide open with Cavani and Greenwood hitting good form last season, Rashford racking up another 20 goals despite injuries and spotty form, and in theory the return of Martial to full fitness after a summer of rest and recovery. Martial deserves this season for further chances to keep his spot before being cast aside. Even if the plan is to try and sign Erling Haaland next summer, Cavani’s exit around the same time will create another depth issue. Perhaps at that point Martial’s stock will have failed to recover, but at least the club will have that knowledge at a time when it can afford to move on from the Frenchman.

Even with rumors of a potential transfer exit or swap deal, it now seems unlikely that Martial will leave the club this summer, and this is the correct move. Martial may not evolve into the world beater modern forward that we hoped he would become after his brilliant debut season, but he could be just a confidence booster away from being a 20-goal striker again. If he doesn’t recover in the way that is hoped, United have the depth to keep putting out other options at striker. Martial has struggled to cope with the presence of new strikers in his time at United, but now United have the luxury of other options they can continue to trust in different set ups.

Martial is probably expendable, but that doesn’t mean he should be gotten rid of. With Sancho in there is opportunity to continue exploring ways to get the best out of the attack, and with Cavani aging and in the final year of his stay Martial can still fight to be a mainstay for a few more years. And with 3 years left on his deal it may be in the best interest of the club to try and get the best out of it. The club should let him show what he can do this season, and give him the chance to keep fighting for his place in Ole’s long term Manchester United project.