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Anthony Martial : United’s Star Striker

Anthony Martial

Anthony Martial, our No.9 is having one his best season currently after joining the club in 2015. Martial was brilliant in his first season at United and surprised everyone with his performances. But he couldn’t carry that form and make it big in the later seasons. Martial has started to find form under Ole and has currently equalled his highest number of goals in a single season. This edition of Tactical Masterclass covers the Frenchman, Anthony Martial.

Club Career

Initial Years

Martial started his youth career at CO Les Ulis in 2001 at the age of 6. His initial development as a footballer happened at this club, which produced some legends like Thierry Henry and Patrice Evra. Till the age of 14, he was a part of the Paris based club.

Joined Lyon

Anthony joined Olympique Lyonnais after impressing their scouts during a match in 2009. With a breakthrough U-17 season at Lyon, in which he scored 32 goals from 21 matches, he was called to represent France in the U-17 category.

First team debut

Martial at lyon
Martial at Lyon

After spending 3 years in the youth teams, Martial started playing for the Lyon reserve team. During his time in the reserve team, he managed to make some first team appearances as well. He made his first team debut in December 2012 in a Europa League group stage match against Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona. Martial came on as a substitute in the 80th minute of the match to replace the goalscorer Yassine Benzia. He later went on to make 3 appearances for the first team before moving to Monaco in 2013.

AS Monaco

Martial joined Monaco for a fee of £5 million on a three-year contract. His first team debut for Monaco came when he came on as a substitute for Radamel Falcao in the 63rd minute. He later provided an assist to win the match against FC Nantes. Martial scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Rennes. His first season was cut short after he suffered a sprained ankle in December. On January 2014, Martial extended his contract until 2018.

Martial monaco
Martial playing for AS Monaco

Martial’s second season at the club saw him make 36 appearances in Ligue 1 scoring 9 goals in total. One of his memorable goals from that season was his late equaliser against PSG from close range. His first goal in European competitions came when he scored in a 4-0 win over BSC Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League.

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Manchester United

In September 2015, Martial made a big money move to Manchester United for £36 million, which could rise upto £57.6 million. This was then the highest amount paid for a teenager. The then United manager Louis Van Gaal said that the transfer fee was “ridiculous” as United always had to pay £10 million more than other teams.

“Anthony is a naturally talented, young, multi-functional forward with great potential. I believe this is the club for him to continue his development.”

Louis Van Gaal on Martial in 2015

Martial’s First season at United

Martial had taken the world by storm after joining United for such a high transfer fee. He justified the price tag after coming on as a sub in 65th minute and scoring a solo goal against arch rivals Liverpool. Anthony scored twice in his first Premier League start for Manchester United in a 3-2 win over Southampton. His goal against Liverpool won him the club’s Goal of the Month award. He was also named the Premier League Player of the Month for September.

Martial POM
Martial wins Player of the Month

Martial scored his first goal in European competitions for the club with an equaliser against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League. He was awarded the Golden Boy as Europe’s Best U-21 player in December 2015. Martial ended the season as United’s top scorer across all competitions. He scored a total of 17 goals for the club in his first season.

2016-17 season

The 2016-17 season saw sacking of LVG and United appointed Jose Mourinho as their new manager. Mourinho bought various players including Zlatan. The arrival of Sweden meant that Martial was not the first choice striker. Later, Mourinho started deploying Martial at the Left- wing and letting him play the wide role.

Mourinho and martial
Jose Mourinho and Anthony Martial

It was a major downfall for Martial in the 16/17 season after being phenomenal in his first season. After a string of under par performances , Martial lost his spot in the first team. He continued the season by getting back into the team and later getting dropped several times due to poor performances. Anthony did manage to get isolated goals and assists throughout the season, though he couldn’t replicate his first season. Martial ended the season with just 4 goals in 25 appearances. Though United managed to win both EFL Cup as well as the UEFA Europa League, Martial’s individual performance was unsatisfactory.

2017-18 season

The 17/18 season saw Martial gaining some momentum. He came from the bench and scored goals in United’s first three matches in the League. The Frenchman managed to keep scoring goals for the club. Martial’s first goal of that Champions League season came in a 4-1 win for United against CSKA Moscow.

Martial goal
Martial celebrates a goal

However, Martial lost his place in the team after the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. With the lack of game time, Martial failed to score anymore goals for United that season. Due to this, there were lot of speculations regarding his departure in that summer transfer window.

2018/19 season

Anthony started the season as a backup to the Chilean and didn’t make any start during the first couple of months. His first goal that season came in the UEFA Champions League against BSC Young Boys. Martial scored his first league goal in a 3-2 win against Newcastle United. This goal saw him get back to form and score in 5 consecutive league games. Hence winning the club’s Player of the Month for October. On January 2019, Martial signed a five-year contract with United. Under the new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Martial scored some more goals to end the season with 10 goals.

Ole and Martial
Martial signed a new 5 year contract under Ole in 2018/19 season.

Current Season

The current season saw Martial start and score in the first match of the league in a 4-0 win against Chelsea. The 19/20 season saw some of Manchester United’s key men getting injured. Martial sustained an injury and was out till August. When he came back from injury and started playing regularly, his strike partner Marcus Rashford sustained a long term injury. With the unavailability of Rashford, the responsibility of scoring goals for the club was mostly on Martial. And he responded really well by scoring 11 goals already this season, equalling the record of his best season at United.

Martial and fernandes
Martial and Fernandes after the goal against City

In the later stages of the season, Martial combined with our January signing Bruno Fernandes and managed to score some memorable goals. One of them being the goal against rivals Manchester City.

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Style of Play

Positives

Martial is an ideal striker. He has every quality to play as a solo striker up front. Even though he played majority of his United matches in the wings, his qualities are better suited as a striker. He has pace, shot power, and can dribble past defenders. One such example is his first goal for United against Liverpool. Though he played in the wings even then, he can take the ball in his stride and get past defenders and finish it. He also has the strikers instinct of being at the right position at the right time.

Martial goal
Anthony scores that goal against City

Anthony loves one touch football and has scored many goals when playing short passes with midfielders. Martial could have been a bigger threat if he had been in a team with better midfield at the time of his arrival. He has been very good when he has had Rashford in the left. Both of them compliment each other. Ole has managed to find their best positions.

“He’s really good for 19. I didn’t know him when I was in France. He’s very, very hard to mark because he knows how to do a lot of things. Not only is he quick, but he’s also technically good.”

Simon Kjær on 19-year-old Martial

Negatives

Martial has been criticized for low work rate during matches. He is very slow off the ball. And tends to wait for the midfielders to do all the work and get the ball to him. When the midfield doesn’t fire, Martial also doesn’t fire. Whereas someone like a Rashford will get the ball from midfield, and create a counter attack. Though things have improved under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who aims to make his team the hardest wroking team in the league.

Playing Position

Martial can play in the left wing as well as a solo striker. His style of play suits him to play as a striker upfront. Though he tends to drift to the left wing while playing as a striker. He isn’t the best with crosses, thus prefers to cut inside and run into the box rather than crossing, while playing as a winger.

Martial’s Achievements

Some of Martials achievements throughout his club career are:

  • FA Cup : 2015/16
  • EFL Cup : 2016/17
  • FA Community Shield : 2016
  • UEFA Europa League : 2016/17
Martial trophy
Anthony wins the Golden Boy award

The Frenchman is having a good season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He looks to have found out how to use Martial in the best way. Being only 24 years old, he still has a long way to go. Hopefully he can become a striker who can score 20 goals every season for United.

Which position do you think Martial should play regularly? Do you see Martial spearheading our attack or do you wish to bring someone more experienced for the role? Do let us know your thoughts.

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