Whilst the act of watching Manchester United strut their possession-based stuff has turned into a frequently joyless and thoroughly unmoving experience over the course of this Premier League season, the spectre of a previously unknown 20-year old Frenchman dancing through this country’s defences in a red shirt never ceases to warn the hearts of United fans. Anthony Martial, purchased from AS Monaco for an initial fee of £36m last summer, hasn’t experienced a fairy tale debut season in English football, but he’s been one of this year’s most exciting young British-based players.
Strong, fast, ridiculously sharp and capable of creating clear-cut chances out of nothing more than his electric pace and dribbling, Martial has contributed 13 goals in 41 appearances, hardly shabby for a debut season, ranging from simple tap-ins to glorious solo efforts. His first after coming on as a substitute at Old Trafford against bitter rivals Liverpool was the stuff of legend, dribbling past several defenders before slotting home past Simon Mignolet in front of a raucous, disbelieving Stretford End, and despite the misfiring nature of United’s campaign, Martial has consistently offered more bright spots, many with fantastic odds through sky bet promotions and unbridled excitement than any other outfield player at the club.
That he’s been able to do this despite featuring primarily as a left-sided attacker and working under the oppressive restrictions that Louis van Gaal has placed upon this team makes his debut term for the club all the more impressive. He’s shown little-to-no fear on the pitch in any situation or against any side, continuing to be United’s best attacking spark in an XI whose possessional superiority often leaves them scratching their heads once they reach the penalty area. Van Gaal only this weekend saw fit to call out the Frenchman for failing to slot a close-range effort past Hugo Lloris before Tottenham Hotspur ran riot in a 3-0 victory, conveniently forgetting that it was Martial’s guile and skill that set up United’s only presentable opportunity of the entire match in the first place.
Given the quality Anthony Martial has shown whilst playing in an underperforming side whilst also working under a manager who seems destined for an uncomfortable exit, hope should be incredibly high for his potential. He’s quiet, shuns the limelight away from the pitch, and, should he stay, could easily become a pivotal part of United’s next attempt to reassert themselves as a force in European and domestic football.