Anthony Martial missed two crucial chances as Manchester United crashed out of the Europa League to Sevilla.
And suddenly the media narrative changed. Combined with Romelu Lukaku scoring two goals for Inter when his side were already 3-0 up, Martial was suddenly taken to task.
Jamie O’Hara jumped in two-footed, telling Talksport: “For me, Anthony Martial is not the number nine who is going to take Manchester United back to the top and back to the Premier League title, I just can’t see it.”
Now on one hand, Martial will always have doubters until he actually does lead United to the title and further trophies, these comments were totally at odds with what was being said a week ago.
Owen Hargreaves told BT Sport: “Everyone’s got an opinion on Martial. He’s a Ferrari. He just looked like a £100 million player.”
This was after Martial’s performance against FC Copenhagen, in which Robin van Persie described him as ‘world class’.
This just shows how the media landscape can quickly change, with Martial going from being lauded in one moment to criticised the next.
United fans know Martial’s true value
It is no surprise the praise for Martial came from ex-United players, who watch the Frenchman play regularly.
O’Hara’s comments came amid questioning of the club’s decision to let Romelu Lukaku go, which barely a single United supporter has expressed disappointment over this season.
United were a tough watch with Lukaku in the line-up due to his often static approach up front. To his credit, he has worked hard to get in shape this year and Inter are reaping the benefits.
His exit has allowed Martial to flourish. This season Martial has scored 23 goals, this is the same tally as he netted for United over the past two seasons combined.
He is flourishing as United’s centre-forward, also providing eight assists in the process.
The misses against Sevilla were uncharacteristic, Martial is usually composed and cool in front of goal. This is a game he will look to learn from, but at the same time, he was playing his 47th game of the season, and needs a little better competition than Odion Ighalo can offer, in order to take the pressure off.
That was the summation of the Lukaku sale. It was not a problem to let him go because he wanted to leave. The problem was a failure to replace him with an extra signing to add depth to the squad.
Ighalo was nothing more than a stop-gap solution, who we want to see succeed in the short-term. But United need a little more.
What Anthony Martial has been able to do this season has been fantastic. His record of 23 goals is his best yet for United, and 22 of them came from open play. His tally could have been even higher if he had not missed six weeks of action with injury either.
The criticism of him is maddening, and while it should not be taken too seriously as it just exposes the pundits who do not watch him on a regular basis, Manchester United fans know how valuable Martial is.
The Frenchman is a favourite to be named United’s player of the season, and justifiably so.
Anthony Martial’s journey at Manchester United so far
- Fantastic debut season
United paid an initial £36 million fee to sign Martial from Monaco which could rise to £58 million. He enjoyed a dream start with a memorable debut goal at Old Trafford against Liverpool. Martial netted 17 goals including an impressive FA Cup semi-final winner against Everton as United went on to win the trophy.
- Moved aside under Mourinho
Martial was stripped of the number nine shirt for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which summed up his decreased involvement in Jose Mourinho’s plans. Martial was reduced to a bit-part squad player, featuring from the left. He scored eight goals in 2016/17, followed by 11, and 12 the next two seasons.
- Back as a number nine
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave Martial his favoured number nine shirt back and restored him to a central striker role. It was a decision which paid off with Martial grabbing the opportunity and looking hungrier than goals than ever. He ended the 2019/20 season with 23 goals and eight assists, his best tally for both.
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