The Treble column: June 23.
Anthony Martial due for pre-season return next week
The first batch of Manchester United players return for pre-season next week, those who were not on international duty.
Among them will be David de Gea, Jadon Sancho, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Donny van de Beek.
The one who is due back who we really can’t envisage actually being back, is wantaway Frenchman Anthony Martial.
Martial pushed for a United exit in January, leaving on loan for Sevilla. He learned that the grass is not always greener, struggling with both form and injury, scoring only one goal.
Now he is due to return, tail between his legs, his France World Cup dream on life support. Manchester United fans have lost faith in him.
The only element in Martial’s favour is United’s lack of alternatives. No strikers have been signed so far this transfer window, and it is possible one won’t be.
Martial will be the most senior forward back in training at United next week, with Cristiano Ronaldo still on holiday.
It will be interesting to see what Erik ten Hag makes of Martial, whether he believes the Frenchman is a lost cause, or the roughest of diamonds who can still be polished into an effective player, the one who scored 23 goals in 2019/20.
The most likely option is Martial is sold or loaned later in the summer. Getting his salary off the books would be a success for United.
But to get there, Martial and United need each other first. The market for Martial is slim after his woeful Sevilla spell. He needs to use pre-season to put himself in the shop window, and United will see the benefit too.
The trouble is, if Martial bags a couple of goals on tour, United risk getting sucked in again. Can this be his latest rejuvenation under Erik ten Hag? Perhaps, but how long will it really last?
We will trust Ten Hag’s decision, but it seems to us, that if Martial bags a couple of goals in pre-season, and an offer comes in to sign him permanently, United should take the money and run, and invest it in another striker instead.
Brighton show United the way to sign bargains
Manchester United’s first game opponents Brighton taught the Red Devils a lesson at the end of last season with a 4-0 victory.
This humiliating defeat was led by Moises Caicedo, a bargain buy for just £4.5 million, who Manchester United passed up.
The Seagulls have continued to add to their squad this summer, pointing the way with shrewd signings, the kind United rarely make.
German striker Deniz Undav joins from Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, a deal which was agreed back in January for just £5 million. He scored 27 goals in all competitions last season, and is worth a punt.
Brighton have also snapped up Paraguayan wonderkid Julian Enciso from Libertad Asuncion for just £9.5 million. The 18-year-old striker scored 11 times in 14 games for his club last season.
These are the type of bargain moves United should be looking at, on top of chasing big name signings. With no deals conducted yet at Old Trafford so far, the lack of strategy is frustrating.
Don’t forget the Erik ten Hag excitement
A slow transfer window month has seen a lot of the Erik ten Hag excitement dissipate, replaced by frustration over a lack of action in the market.
We should try to keep the two emotions separate. In Erik ten Hag, Manchester United have appointed the most exciting manager in Europe.
He finally starts work next week, with pre-season training beginning on Monday. This will give everybody at the club a big lift, a much needed one.
If a new signing can be secured in the days ahead, we really will have lift-off. Then in July, United will have as many as six pre-season games where we will start to see Ten Hag’s vision take shape.
Let’s stay concerned about the transfers, but also be excited about Ten Hag. The positivity he can bring will give fans and players a much needed boost, and the signings will come eventually.