It has been a desperately slow start to the season for Anthony Martial. While he has struggled, teammate Marcus Rashford has not.
Amid an apparent shift to a two-man attack, Rashford’s sensational form has for now, locked him in as a starter in United’s best XI.
So it then becomes a competition between Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, and Anthony Martial to see who will partner Rashford.
Prior to midweek, Greenwood and Cavani were yet to really get started, while Martial was losing momentum.
Both Greenwood and Cavani took steps forward, with the youngster netting his first Champions League goal, while the new signing had a goal ruled out.
Martial is still suspended this weekend, giving both players a chance to gain ground on him and overtake him in the pecking order.
That’s why it was so important that he finished the game against Leipzig strongly and made his case.
Martial’s patience pays off
Martial has had a woeful start to the season with one red card, and one own goal. Thankfully he did not add one missed penalty to an unwanted list.
Rashford stepped aside to let Martial take the penalty for United’s fourth goal. It was a sign of unselfish respect towards his teammate, knowing he would benefit from getting off the mark for the season.
Martial obliged, and then repaid Rashford moments later, providing an assist for the man of the moment’s first ever hat-trick.
The assist coming off was a sign things are beginning to finally click for Martial.
After scoring 23 goals last season, the start to this campaign has been tricky. Once this weekend’s suspension is over, he can restart with a little extra confidence.
Martial was sharp against Leipzig, launching United’s first real attack when he latched onto a Fred through ball and put in a low cross which was just too far behind Mason Greenwood.
He won the penalty which he scored from after a typically direct run into the box, and his link up with Rashford led to United’s fifth.
The partnership between Rashford and Martial is well established at this point.
Rashford supplied Martial for five goals last season, the highest assist to goalscorer combination in the United team.
This partnership was despite the pair lining up inequally as part of a front three, with Martial occupying a more central role.
In a two-man attack, both players have greater license to roam, and use their movement to cause problems for defenders in front of goal.
There is a very strong case that Rashford and Martial should be United’s first choice partnership, netting 45 goals between them last season, because of what they can do together, regardless of the individual brilliance Cavani and Greenwood can bring.
This weekend with Martial suspended, one of Greenwood and Cavani will get their chance to state a case.
Martial will be relieved that he was able to get back on track this week and set his season moving in a forward trajectory again, reversing his slump in form.
He has made a case to go straight back into the side when his suspension is over and use his pre-established partnership with Rashford to his advantage. Midweek was a timely reminder this is an asset in his favour.
With competition for places driving everybody forward, United’s front players have to keep performing.
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