When Anthony Martial arrived from Monaco on deadline day in 2015 for up to £58million, the unanimous question on everyone’s lips was, “how good can Martial become?” Six years later and those at Old Trafford are still asking that same question.
The 25-year-old understandably divides opinion among United fans. The ones who like to call themselves “Martial FC” think he can still go on to become world class and there are some that think he will always be inconsistent and should be replaced. Some even believe that Martial should have been sold instead of Romelu Lukaku in 2019.
While Lukaku is a decent player, he is technically more limited and to get the best out of him you have to build the team around the Belgian. The way Solskjaer wants to set up didn’t suit Lukaku at all and Martial is the more suited player. Versatile, quick and when his minds in the right place, difficult to stop.
But there lies the crux of the matter, as we just as often see a disinterested Martial with his signature scowl as we do the one leaving defenders in the dust and bending one into the back of the net.
He seems to lack that killer instinct and this makes him one of the most frustrating players to watch at the club, as you can see he has all tools necessary to be a cornerstone of this side if he just got his head down and worked harder for it.
No one can forget his debut in the 3-1 win over Liverpool, where Martial came on late in the second half and collected the ball from the left hand side, turned Liverpool’s defenders inside out be and clinically slotted home the last goal in the game. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that United fans have expected the Frenchman to have found some consistency to his performances by now.
At the end of this year Martial will be 26 and at some point a player has to start realising his potential. A great example of this is Cristiano Ronaldo, who, like Martial, was very inconsistent at first but you could see glimpses of a player in there.
The Portuguese winger had the hunger and desire to improve and was often the first to arrive and the last to leave at Carrington. Ronaldo is known to be one of the hardest working players in the game, I have my doubts about whether Martial shares the same type of mentality.
We are now at a time where it is do or die for the Frenchman. With the emergence of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford having a solid campaign and the addition of Edinson Cavani, competition for places along the forward line is fierce. Along with United still being linked to likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland, Martial might soon be phased out of the side and be forced to seek new pastures if he continues to underwhelm.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough,” and never has that applied more to Martial than now.
If he ultimately doesn’t live up to what people expect of him, then he will join the list of players that squandered their natural ability because they didn’t want it hard enough.