1,000th up for United
Football’s most expensive teenager has pace, power, balance and an eye for goal
Martial bags landmark goal to maintain European hopes
Around Old Trafford, Anthony Martial is very popular just now. And why wouldn’t he be? Since signing from Monaco for an exorbitant fee, the Frenchman has carried the fight for Manchester United in a way that defies his age and inexperience.
Even when Wayne Rooney was fit, the 20-year-old regularly stood out with his power, pace and balance. Granted, Marcus Rashford has done brilliantly just lately to come in and score goals. The teenager has surprised everyone with his exploits.
But in a season best forgotten for its entertainment, it has been Martial who has consistently come to the fore, an admirable effort for one so young. He was at it again yesterday against Everton in the kind of drab affair that has become painfully familiar in this tortuous season.
With much huff and puff but very little quality, United had Martial to thank for grabbing the only goal of a game that most would have forgotten by the time they left the car park. Without doubt, he has enjoyed much better days in a United shirt. But his shimmies and bursts to complement a far-post tap-in meant his man-of-the-match award was far from misplaced (I should know, I chose him).
More importantly, United had secured another three points in their desperate scramble for a Champions League place. Now lying one point behind fourthplaced Manchester City, at least they stand a fighting chance of achieving the bare minimum for a club of this stature.
And if that happens, Louis van Gaal must also stand a better chance of keeping his job, a consequence that would not go down very well with a growing portion of fans tired of the football being produced.
For that reason, Martial might actually be doing those supporters something of a disservice. By maintaining standards that are not entirely in line with the team effort, he could be prolonging an era not in keeping at all with the traditions of this famous institution.
Still, all that kind of stuff is up to the owners, who might not be so fussed with aesthetics as they are with hard figures.
Martial can only do his job and he is doing it extremely well under difficult circumstances, especially for someone new to this league. A down-to-earth lad from a football family, he seems to take everything in his stride with little fuss.
That £36 million price tag, for instance, has hardly left a mark. If he felt any pressure, the most expensive teenager in football history hid it very well upon arriving in England. Since then, he has not only become vital to United but also to his country, completing 45 minutes in each of France’s two recent friendlies.
In short, Van Gaal chose very well when he signed Martial, something the Dutchman, I am sure, would be happy to admit. In fact, from the moment the youngster sprang off the bench to score against Liverpool on his debut, he has looked nothing but quality, a proper star in the making. In a season of negatives, that must soften the blow.
From the moment he scored against Liverpool on his debut, he’s looked nothing but quality
Man of the match: Anthony Martial celebrates his goal