Anthony Martial’s hat-trick was a big moment for the Frenchman. It was also a significant for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United as a whole.
This was the first hat-trick scored by any Manchester United player in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Several strikers have tried and failed, including Radamel Falcao, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Romelu Lukaku.
United took the decision to sell Lukaku last summer, and no matter how well he is doing in Italy, the move looks like the correct decision.
The club got rid of a player who had begun to realise his heart wasn’t in it, and wanted to move on. As soon as that happens, it is important to cut ties if you can.
The decision not to spend money on a direct replacement was more controversial, and at times has made the choice to sell the striker more questionable – at least to outside media pundits who do not take into account Lukaku’s clear disinterest.
United got £74 million for Lukaku, a terrific fee for a player who scored just 16 goals for the club last season.
Martial’s hat-trick last night saw him surpass this, to reach 19, and it feels like there are a lot more goals still to come from the Frenchman.
Solskjaer chose not to sign a striker because he wanted to give both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford a chance to find their ways, without additional obstacles.
Both players have nailed down their positions, with Rashford on the left, and Martial centrally.
At times in the first half of the season a lack of depth has cost United, and this was addressed with a loan move for Odion Ighalo.
Solskjaer has got exactly what he wanted. He has helped turn Martial into a prolific centre-forward, with the Frenchman enjoying the best season of his career, despite a two month injury lay-off at the start of the campaign.
United are better off for it, and the decision has also allowed more space for Mason Greenwood to grow too.
Greenwood has started games up front and on the right and he has flourished, scoring 13 goals in total this season. He is only just getting started.
Solskjaer gambled that Martial would be good enough. The Frenchman has proved him right. The manager has got exactly what he wanted.
There could be a sting in the tail
While United’s decision to sell Lukaku and trust our forwards to develop in his place looks good right now, there could yet be an unwelcome sting in the tail.
Lukaku’s Inter are one of United’s top rivals for the Europa League trophy, which will be played out in August.
A one off match against Inter is a possibility, and Lukaku will be keen to prove a point. A decisive game from him could be costly for United.
It wouldn’t necessarily negate Martial, Rashford and Greenwood’s outstanding development, but it would be an uncomfortable experience if the Belgian denies us a trophy and possible entry to the Champions League.
Solskjaer has got exactly what he wanted from his sale so far. But the season may not have a happy ending.
On the other hand, if Martial makes the difference in a Europa decider against Inter, it will further validate a brave and seemingly shrewd decision from the United boss.
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