Four matches which doomed Anthony Martial's Manchester United career

Anthony Martial, where did it all go wrong? Well, as the United forward looks forward to a loan spell with Sevilla, it’s actually quite easy to pinpoint where it all fell apart.

Martial has himself to blame as well as some unfortunate circumstances. When he looks back, there is one four-match stretch in 2020 which doomed his Red Devils spell, punctuated by run-ins with his new teammates.

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The four-match spell where it all went wrong

August 2020: United 1-2 Sevilla

Martial’s new team denied him just as everything was looking up. At the height of a 23-goal season, Martial was man-of-the-match in the quarter-finals as he won a penalty to defeat Copenhagen. Against Sevilla he came up against an inspired goalkeeper, Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou.

Speaking to Sevilla’s YouTube channel, Martial said: “He made great saves against us. It was unbelievable, he saved every shot, it was crazy.”

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This match ended United’s prolonged 2019/20 season and set the wheels in motion for United to further explore other forward options. Martial sowed some doubts as a player who failed to get it done when the team needed him most. Fair or not, this semi-final was a missed opportunity where it could have worked out so differently if Martial had buried one of his chances.

September 2020: United 1-3 Crystal Palace

A nightmare start to the season saw United return to action just one month after the previous year finished. Like many of United’s players, Martial looked shattered. In different circumstances with a full pre-season, perhaps Martial would have been able to follow up his 23-goal campaign.

Martial failed offer a goal threat in the defeat, having no shots on target. United began to wonder if he could deal with the pressure of leading the line for a second successive season.

September 2020: Brighton 2-3 United

The famous game in which Bruno Fernandes scored a winning penalty after the final whistle. Again this was a listless performance from Martial to begin the season.

For the second game in a row, Martial failed to land a shot on target, and managed just 33 touches in 90 minutes.

This game underlined that Martial was going to need help, and set the wheels in motion for United to pursue a late deal for free agent Edinson Cavani.

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October 2020: United 1-6 Tottenham

A total disaster for all, especially Martial. Rumours of a Cavani deal swirled before kick-off, and the Frenchman had a game to forget as he was harshly sent off.

Martial was judged to have raised his hands towards Erik Lamela, who threw himself to the floor and got Martial sent off. United were 2-1 down and went on to lose 6-1. Martial would be suspended for the next three league games.

United pushed through a deal for Cavani 24 hours later, and the competition up front Martial didn’t want, had arrived.

Top strikers need to react well to competition, and Martial’s biggest flaw was that he didn’t. Cavani was actually brought in to help a flagging Martial, but the Frenchman’s form went further into the tank, with his lack of movement exposed by the Uruguayan’s top class displays.

In an unfortunate twist for Martial, one of his new teammates at Sevilla is Erik Lamela, the man who got him sent off. That won’t be awkward at all…

Failure to respond to competition

Part of the problem with Cavani’s arrival was that this was history repeating itself for Martial. He had earlier been moved aside for Zlatan Ibrahimovic under Jose Mourinho after a successful season under Louis van Gaal.

But this can be when character helps players, and Martial struggled after Cavani’s arrival, scoring just seven goals all season.

His manager was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a coach who was famous as a player for rising against odds stacked in front of him by Sir Alex Ferguson, who signed the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney, and the Norwegian still came out fighting and held his own. It’s no wonder the now former manager began to lose faith, failing to see the fighting qualities in Martial which he held himself to so highly.

Martial’s form after Cavani’s arrival was terrible, arguably his worst spell at the club. To see this change so sharply after his best season was frustrating to watch.

It makes you wonder what might have happened if he came out firing at the start of the 2020/21 season, or finished his chances against Sevilla. United may have decided Cavani was not needed after all, and it all may have worked out differently. That’s Martial’s United career in a nutshell unfortunately, promise spiked by failure to build on it.

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What else hurt Martial?

An injury with France in March also proved critical in Martial’s downfall. This saw him miss the end of the season and United’s Europa League final. Even if as a substitute, the striker could have changed everything with a decisive final goal. Solskjaer could attest to that.

Instead he did not even get the opportunity, with his injury keeping him out for Euro 2020 and three of United’s four pre-season games, leaving him barely fit to start this season.

By time the transfer window was over, Cristiano Ronaldo had signed, and Martial had fallen to fourth choice option as lead striker. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had lost faith, and after Martial was dropped from the France squad for the November internationals, his desire to leave was already made.

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