Anthony Martial had never been truly handed the responsibility to lead the line for Manchester United until this season.

He wore the number nine shirt during his first season at Old Trafford, but Louis van Gaal preferred Wayne Rooney and then Marcus Rashford through the middle before being sacked in 2016.

Jose Mourinho took the number nine shirt from Martial, handing it to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who became the club’s first choice striker too.

Romelu Lukaku took on that mantle after one season, but the Belgian’s departure handed Martial a chance on centre stage.

And now it seems the penny has dropped.

Martial vows to be more ruthless

(Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Martial has given a revealing interview to United’s official website in which he explained his desire to be more ruthless in front of goal now he is the club’s primary striker.

He said: “Now, it’s all about scoring goals for me. That’s my number one aim. It has to be. For me it has to be about scoring goals now. At first I always loved to dribble the ball, perhaps too much even.

“If I do a piece of skill, I want to score after it. These days I am very focused on my central striker role, getting my scoring stats up.

“We have one of the great finishers to learn from with Ole as our manager. What a finisher he was. To score, you have to be obsessed, to be fixated on just that, scoring goals.

 

That’s how you enjoy yourself as a striker. That’s not a choice – that’s how it has to be.”

Martial is saying all the right things

(Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

Martial has always been a player of great potential, who drifted in and out of matches, largely from the flank.

But compared to the contributions of wide players such as Raheem Sterling and Mo Salah in the Premier League, he lagged behind.

He is now talking like he wants to follow Sterling’s trajectory; from sparkling dribbler to ruthless finisher and he should get more chances to score now he’s operating through the middle.

Sterling plundered 11 and 10 goals (all competitions) respectively from his maiden two Manchester City seasons, but tireless work on his composure and finishing has seen him net 23 and 25 in the two thereafter. He is currently on 13 this term.

Martial’s best tally across all competitions is 17 in 2015/16, but hauls of 11 and 12 in his past two campaigns shows he is around the same level Sterling found himself before launching his career to new heights.

Martial’s comments should be music to the ears of every United fan who has wanted to see him realise his full potential and yearned for a reliable, mobile goalscorer to lead the line during the post-Ferguson era.

Now he has to back it up with actions on the pitch and become the ruthless marksman United need and Raheem Sterling offers the ideal blueprint.

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