Can Anthony Martial finally push on and fulfill his potential at Manchester United?
Before we start, yes it may have ‘only’ been Burton Albion.
But let that take absolutely nothing away from the outstanding display that Anthony Martial put in for Manchester United on Wednesday evening, as they comfortably saw off the Championship side.
The young forward’s Manchester United career has been something of a yo-yo since he arrived in England from Monaco two years ago, putting in a sparkling debut performance against Liverpool which set the anticipation high only to struggle for regular first-team chances in the past 24 months.
It seems that something is finally beginning to click, though, and after a bit of tough love from Jose Mourinho last year it may have done the trick as Martial has started the season in a clinical fashion.
Last night’s cruise to victory over Burton Albion just served to show how far he’s come in a small period of time, and the new-found confidence he has on the pitch is rubbing off on his end product.
He was attempting the audacious sort of tricks and flicks that a player only tries when feeling at the top of their game, putting in one particular moment of individual brilliance when he rolled his foot over the ball, evading two Burton defenders in a way that only evoked memories of his debut antics.
The 21-year-old was even attempting over-head kicks during the first half – an effort which would likely have nestled in the net had it not been blocked – and it’s a far cry from where he was last year.
This is perhaps a testament to Mourinho’s man-management of Martial in recent times, and after an initial stage last year where his time out of the first-team appeared detrimental to his progression in Manchester the French international has really knuckled down and wants to fight this time around.
He seems to be thriving on the healthy competition with Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard and, after being reinstated to the starting line-up following his neat cameo displays against West Ham and Swansea, he’s seen that this season he’ll be rewarded for good displays with a starting role.
His performance against Burton will no doubt give the Portuguese tactician something to think about for Saturday’s trip to Southampton, with Martial once again getting involved in the final third.
His well-taken goal, added to his intricate assist for Lingard, means that he has now been directly involved in six goals this year (four goals, two assists) – finding the final product every 46.5 minutes.
The Championship side simply had no answer to the threat that his raw pace and direct running provided, and it seemed that the ball was stuck to his foot with glue such was his excellent control.
Again, it’s important to note that it was ‘only’ Burton, but performances like that could prove to be the catalyst for greater things and it seems that Martial is firmly on his way to reaching his raw potential.
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