It’s 2021 and former Golden Boy winner Anthony Martial is at a pivotal point in his career.
Injury has denied him a place at a second successive major tournament, and he is coming off his worst ever season for Manchester United.
Martial netted just seven goals, a big dip from 23 the year before. His true level may be somewhere in between.
What Martial has to do now is fight for his place. This will be a little more complicated with the potential arrival of Jadon Sancho.
Outside the dream front three
When Sancho arrives, ask United fans to name a dream front three and Martial won’t be part of the combination. He already isn’t.
At the moment United’s top front three is Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood.
Looking into the future when Cavani’s deal expires, the front three will be Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Jadon Sancho.
There should always be room for depth and competition, and that’s where Martial comes in.
United can’t flog players to the extent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did last season with Marcus Rashford playing 57 club games.
Cavani is 34 and this coming season he can’t play every game. So there will be chances for Martial.
There will be speculation about Martial’s future, but unless another striker comes in, the Frenchman will stay put.
Sancho’s arrival means Martial is unlikely to be moved out onto the left wing as he was at times last season.
While Martial had enjoyed some success on the left in previous seasons, he was really poor there in 2020/21 and clearly looked like he did not want to be there. In seven starts on the left, Martial had no goals and no assists.
Sancho can play on the left and give Rashford a break, while rising star Anthony Elanga and Dan James can also pick up some slack.
This means Martial should be regarded as a striker, the position he wants to play. He can have a singular focus and he will get chances where Edinson Cavani is rotated – although he will have to compete with Mason Greenwood too.
A new mindset
Martial needs to return more determined than ever, to show he can still be a big player for Manchester United.
There were flashes in the 2019/20 season where he was outstanding and Jadon Sancho could help him get better.
Martial will benefit from having one of the top chance creators in Europe being added to the team.
Sancho played more passes into the penalty area than any player in the Bundesliga last season.
Martial could thrive from playing alongside Sancho and this should not be underestimated. Rotation will keep him fresh and this rest over the summer could be good for him.
With Edinson Cavani at the Copa America, Martial has a chance to begin the season as United’s first choice striker. If he grabs his opportunities early on, then he could run with it.
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