Hyperbole and exaggeration have come to define Martial’s time at Old Trafford. Arriving amidst a tabloid storm that scorned United for splashing £57.1 million for the Monaco man, Martial initially shined but has since failed to deliver.
The Frenchman enjoyed a fruitful first season under Louis van Gaal, finishing as top scorer. However, having registered only 11 Premier League goals in that season, it says more about van Gaal’s turgid style than Martial’s quality. Although some of the praise was not always measured with common sense, there was a very real feeling that Martial could develop into an important and productive player. Two underwhelming years later and the Frenchman has failed to elevate his game.
He has struggled under the demands of Jose Mourinho and has been subjected to warming the bench. It’s interesting to note that Martial’s attitude has not been questioned; his surly expression has often wrongly been taken for a player unwilling to apply himself in training.
The ugly duckling
Martial simply doesn’t complement Mourinho’s footballing outlook. Fans have been quick to criticise the United boss’ reticence to give the 22-year-old a chance, and there is some truth to such complaints. The winger only started more than two consecutive games on one occasion all season.
Perhaps this is a factor in the infuriating inconsistency that has plagued Martial under Mourinho, but this would be an easy excuse to make. For while he has not been given a regular platform from which to impress, he has also equally not taken his chances when they have come. It’s a two-way street. Last season, Martial only made a game-winning impact twice, against Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley – both matches ending 1-0 to United.
No better than Luis Nani?
Many fans have drawn similarities between Martial’s United career and Nani’s. But while the former is evidently more talented than the latter, when it comes to productivity there is little to separate them during their respective stints at Old Trafford. It is a little unfair to state that Martial will never eclipse the level Nani reached, which was commendable if not disappointing given his potential.
But there is something to be said about the comparison of two players who promised so much but failed to produce on a regular basis. The Portuguese teased United fans with electric displays one week and bafflingly ineffective performances the next. Loaded with the pressure as heir-apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani’s time in Manchester can be characterised by clouds of frustration punctuated all too infrequently by lightning bolts of unplayable quality. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
No sunshine here
It doesn’t look like Martial will part the clouds of discontent, either. His agent told RMC Sport that “Anthony wants to leave Manchester United.
“I think that when United, the most powerful club in the world, do not find an agreement after eight months of negotiations then they do not really want to keep such an important player in their squad.”
Phillipe Lamboley, Martial’s agent, though inadvertently, has arrived at the crux of his client’s problem. Martial is not an “important player” and is not a priority for Mourinho.
Martial has boundless potential – but he needs to realise it before he is labelled as a genuine talent. Only a move away will create the right environment for that to happen. It will be jarring for United fans to see him depart, given he appears to represent everything a United attacker should be: energetic, entertaining and direct.
The forward’s spell at Old Trafford has drawn a ludicrous tribalism. ‘Martial FC’ are much maligned, and though they represent some of the nonsense Martial attracts, it is a much wider phenomenon. The winger, in the last two years, has done nothing to warrant the praise and affection he receives. He has been over-hyped to the point of disbelief and, for Mourinho and Manchester United, he will not be missed.