For some Manchester United fans, it might be difficult to believe that Anthony Martial is entering his eighth season with the Red Devils. It’s almost seven years since he burst onto the scene when coming on as a substitute to score against bitter rivals Liverpool. Unfortunately, that still arguably ranks as the high point of Martial’s career at United. Sure, there have been good moments – he has scored 79 goals for the club – but he has never fulfilled that incredible potential everyone thought he had since he arrived from Monaco back in 2015.
Of course, many thought that Martial’s career at United was over when he moved to Sevilla on loan in January. It was a difficult time for Martial in Spain, and he was given few chances to prove himself at Seville. In the end, he returned to Manchester looking somewhat chastened by the experience. Still, with a new manager in place, Erik Ten Haag, the Frenchman has been given an opportunity to prove himself. And so far, so good. Martial has arguably been the best player in United’s preseason games, and it looks like he is going to get a chance to be an integral part of United’s attack in the upcoming Premier League campaign.
United building for the future
But many United fans will tell you that they have been here before. Martial has promised to explode into a world-class player on so many occasions, only to go through extended periods of poor form. It is, for want of a better term, infuriating for them to see, in their view, Martial’s wasted talent. The betting odds suggest it’s a longshot for United to win the title this season, but Ten Haag is supposed to be building for the future. Will Martial be part of those plans?
There is a sense that this season represents the last chance for Martial. Certainly, United fans are not going to accept another season of lacklustre performances from the 26-year-old. Furthermore, he has to prove that he is putting in maximum effort. United have had players before who, like Martial, have looked nonchalant when on the pitch – Dimitar Berbatov and Eric Cantona are examples of this – but their casual attitude has belied their hard work. Martial often looks like he simply doesn’t care.
Martial has a final chance
Martial should be coming into his footballing peak now. At 26, he should be thinking about the prime of his career. In addition, he should be thinking about the World Cup in November, with his place in the talented French squad by no means guaranteed. A good start to the season could see him placed in Didier Deschamps’ plans, and it could persuade United’s money men to postpone buying a striker.
The elephant in the room in all this is Cristiano Ronaldo. At the time of writing, there are doubts as to whether the Portuguese legend will resume his United career. If he does return to the fold, it will surely hamper Martial’s chances of getting a starting berth. But many fans are also disillusioned with Ronaldo. They believe his playing style does not gel well with United’s broader strategy, even if he was the club’s best outfield player last season.
And, at his best, Martial is exactly the type of player United fans like. His speed and skill complement other attackers like Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, as well as the creativity of Bruno Fernandes and new recruit Christian Eriksen. There are two questions: Whether Martial will be given the chance, and whether he will take it. We will soon find out.