It’s safe to say that few players in the history of Manchester United will ever enjoy a debut as perfect as Anthony Martial’s. The Frenchman arrived at Old Trafford on transfer deadline day last September for the sum of £36m, a fee widely lauded to be exorbitant for an unknown youngster and the British press were quick to pour scorn on the move.
For his part, Martial spent much of last season looking like he was utterly unfazed by the whole situation, and after returning from international duty with France, Martial made his first appearance for United under Louis Van Gaal as a second half substitute against Liverpool.
We all know what happened next; a drop of the shoulder here, excellent footwork there, before Martial slots home to seal a 3-1 win over United’s biggest rivals with a wonderful solo effort. He continued that form on during the rest of the season, notching 17 goals including a hugely important strike in United’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final win over Everton at Wembley.
His second season in English football has started off with far less in terms of fireworks, having struggled to score or assist in the early weeks of Jose Mourinho’s reign at United. Having picked up an injury during his team’s 2-1 loss at Vicarage Road two weeks ago, the Frenchman returned to United’s matchday squad against Stoke City on Sunday, and scored within two minutes of his introduction.
His goal, swept home past Lee Grant after Wayne Rooney was swiftly dispossessed on the edge of the penalty area was keenly celebrated with Martial walking away tapping the United crest on his shirt. Even though Joe Allen’s late equaliser was a blow to the stomach given that the home side had dominated proceedings, the silver lining was clear; Martial is up and running this season.
He’s deserving of a start against Liverpool at Anfield in two weeks’ time, for sure. Marcus Rashford could certainly do with being rested at some stage, with the England international struggling for fitness for a good chunk of yesterday’s second half. Martial has struggled to adapt to the slightly deeper role that he is being asked to play under Mourinho, but his goal demonstrated that a disjointed start to this new season hasn’t dampened his quality, and his manager will be keenly aware of the need to keep his young charge feeling confident. Here’s hoping we can see him provide another moment of magic against Liverpool after this current international break.