What’s gone wrong for Anthony Martial at Manchester United?
When Anthony Martial burst on to the scene at Manchester United in 2015 with a superb goal against Liverpool on his debut, it looked like he had a massive future ahead at Old Trafford. Three years on, his career has stalled slightly, and there are doubts over his imminent future.
United paid an initial fee of £36 million for Martial, potentially rising to £58 million in add-ons, making him the most expensive teenager in the world, a title he held until Kylian Mbappe’s move to PSG became permanent this summer.
He went on to have a successful first season with United under Louis van Gaal. He scored 17 goals in all competitions, helping them win the FA Cup, but it wasn’t enough to keep van Gaal in the job, and he was replaced by Jose Mourinho after the season had ended.
Mourinho likes his wingers to track back and do their fair share of work defensively, and that isn’t currently a facet of Martial’s game. Going forward, Martial should really suit Mourinho’s style. He’s fast, direct, and is capable of cutting inside from the left flank.
In the two seasons since the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ took over at Old Trafford, Martial has started just 36 Premier League games, less than half of United’s matches. The lack of consistent appearances has also impacted on his performance on the pitch. He has scored just 13 goals and provided only nine assists in those two seasons. A player of his undoubted quality should be producing those numbers in a single season.
The lack of performances saw Martial miss out on a spot in France’s victorious World Cup squad, something which will likely have been one of the reasons for him asking to leave United this summer.
There is no doubt that he has all the attributes to be a crucial player for United, but there is clearly something wrong at the moment. There are differences between what Mourinho wants from Martial on the pitch to what the Frenchman is delivering, but it must go deeper than that.
Questions have been asked about his attitude in the past, with Gary Neville once accusing him of only giving “85 per cent”, and at times it looks that way on the pitch. He occasionally looks very laboured, a little bit off the pace, and he doesn’t track back and help his fullback in the way Mourinho would wish.
He has also had problems with his personal life off the field. There is no need to scrutinise what has been going on regarding his personal life, but there is no doubt that if rumours about his off-field life are true, it may have had some impact on his performances on the pitch.
His confidence will have taken a hit when Manchester United swapped Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez with Arsenal, and given that the deal made the Chilean the highest paid player in the Premier League, he was always going to be the first choice. This leaves Martial fighting for his place, and he struggled to hold down a place in Mourinho’s side.
He is a confidence player, and currently, having lost a place in the United side and missed out on a place in the France World Cup squad, his confidence is at rock bottom, and it will take time for him to regain that confidence, whether it be at Old Trafford or elsewhere.
There are still questions over Martial’s future, and there is more than half a chance that he could be on the move before the transfer window comes to an end.