Manchester United sold Romelu Lukaku at the starting of the 2019-20 season. The Belgian international was bought under Jose Mourinho and didn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fluid attacking system. Anthony Martial was given back the #9 jersey and he’s never looked back.
Martial, bought under Louis van Gaal in 2015 is a perfect modern-day striker. He is quick, can take-on a few defenders of his own and has loads of shooting tricks in his pocket. His off the ball movement to drop deep and lure players around him and create space for his teammates makes him effective against teams who sit deep.
Under Mourinho, Martial’s directness and willingness to go forward was not appreciated. He was being forced to play on the left flank. With Ole coming in, the French international enjoys taking the central role while Marcus Rashford plays as an inside wing forward on the left-wing.
Martial started off in a brilliant fashion scoring a goal in 4-0 victory against Chelsea. He scored and assisted once in the following game but picked up a hamstring injury that sidelined him for around two months.
After missing nine games for the Reds, he returned making an appearance off the bench against Liverpool in a 1-1 draw in October. Four days later, he put himself back on the scoresheet scoring the winner against Partizan in the Europa League.
He crushed City’s title hopes in Dec securing a shocking 2-1 win in the derby with his winner. United’s season remained a series of ups and downs but he never stopped contributing to the team. If he didn’t score or assist, he helped in the build-up in the absence of Paul Pogba.
He has a passing accuracy of 80% with six forward passes per 90. He also averages more than one key passes (passes which lead to a shot) per 90. His link-up play with Rashford is phenomenal. Both are capable of cutting inside from the left flank and interchange positions. This often comes in an unpredictable situation for the opponents and causes trouble for the defenses.
Martial has a stronger right foot but his left foot is a lot better than other right-footed strikers. Despite low efficiency, he takes 1/3rd of the shots from his left foot. With a high 20% shot conversion rate, Martial ranks up amongst the best striker in Europe. He’s outperformed his xG and xA across all competitions scoring 23 goals and grabbing 11 assists in 46 appearances.
After Bruno Fernandes’ arrival, United looked more dangerous. This allowed Martial to stay further up the pitch and take more attacking risks. After the lockdown, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood have completely caused a turnaround in United’s attack.
Their attack looks far better and with the supply from Fernandes and Pogba, Martial is making the most of the opportunities given to him. His hat-trick against Sheffield United was the first hattrick scored after Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013.
However, his fitness is a major concern for United. When he was out for two months in the beginning of the season, United looked helpless in the attack. Odion Ighalo is a good backup option but for Martial to be the striker who can score 30+ goals per season, he needs to find a way to keep himself fit.
Martial is 24 and has a bright future ahead at Old Trafford. Solskjaer trusts him and Martial repaid his manager by putting in splendid performances week in, week out. Without a doubt, Martial has significantly improved his game and revived himself after a devastating spell under Mourinho. Adding Jadon Sancho into the mix next season will open more doors for the Frenchman.