1,000th up for United

Football’s most ex­pen­sive teenager has pace, power, bal­ance and an eye for goal

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN SMITH

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

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