Winter is coming. Anthony Martial is flying now, but as we head towards 2020 a new challenge will be on the horizon.
Manchester United are highly likely to sign a new striker, having seen how badly the team dropped off when Martial was not available.
It would be irresponsible management for the club not to sign a new striker in January, no matter how well Martial plays between now and then. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already admitted a new forward being signed is likely [ESPN].
Various names have been linked, from Erling Haaland, Timo Werner and Mario Mandzukic, the MEN report, and even Callum Wilson.
When the new striker comes in, it is absolutely crucial that Martial handles it well, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manages the Frenchman smartly.
It hasn’t gone well before
Part of the reason for Martial’s success is that he is enjoying being the main man once again.
He has contributed to eight goals in eight starts and is relishing the responsibility of leading the line.
This has been helped by the way he has been handed back the number nine shirt, which was taken off him to give to Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016 after a terrific debut season at Old Trafford in which he scored 17 goals.
Martial has not topped that figure since, partly because he has been played out of position, and he has been perceived to be having a bit of a sulk.
His best run of form under Jose Mourinho came in 2017/18 when he scored nine goals, and then was shunted aside for Alexis Sanchez.
After Sanchez’s arrival he played less regularly and then did not score another Premier League goal for the rest of the season.
A new Martial
A new striker will come in and get chances, and Anthony Martial has the opportunity to show he is a new man too.
The choices to sign Zlatan and Sanchez made some sense at the time but were also very harsh on Martial.
Irrespective of that, he didn’t handle either situation well, and didn’t give the Red Devils bosses enough reason to bring him back into the team.
Martial needs to fight for his place as a leader in the team and not go back into a shell of himself.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly believes in him and he will likely pay more attention to working with Martial in this regard than Jose Mourinho did.
He seems to be enjoying being a team player, evidenced by his impressive link up with Marcus Rashford, and may this time embrace the additional help.
Who will it be?
The degree to which Martial has to adjust depends on who United decide to sign in January.
A big money swoop on Erling Haaland will mean the Frenchman will begin several games back on the bench in the second half of the season.
Timo Werner is more versatile and can play on the left with Martial, and it may be Marcus Rashford who is sacrificed more frequently.
Mario Mandzukic would be a back-up, and this would suit Martial more, with the Croatian simply being used for rotation purposes and to come off the bench.
Whoever it is, they won’t be taking Martial’s number nine shirt. United should have learned that lesson and changes can’t be made mid-season in any case.
Martial turns 24 in December, he looks ready to step up. That means reacting well to competition and wanting to prove he is top dog, no matter who his new teammate will be.
Competition has brought out the worst in him previously. This time he must show it can make him even better.
A new striker can raise Martial’s game, while also helping him stay fit and not be overplayed.
He’s such an asset right now, we need him to respond well, and it is a risk that he goes backwards. But it has been shown to be a bigger risk not to sign anybody and watch him get injured and be left back at square one.
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