Could Anthony Martial Become Another Troubled Manchester United Wonderkid?
Anthony Martial became Manchester United’s £36 million signing in the summer transfer window. This was an acquisition that was received with wide ridicule for the club, but will Anthony Martial be yet another ‘wonder-kid’ to be either the hero or the zero for The Red Devils?
Signing from Monaco, the French youngster received a lot of attention from the British media purely because of the transfer fee that was attached to him. But if the monetary outlay was not enough of a headline grabber, his goal against Liverpool in United’s 3-1 home victory was enough to set tongues wagging across the country.
Martial, much like Michael Owen, had secured his place in Manchester United folklore by netting against one of the side’s old rivals. Yet unlike Owen, Martial suddenly found himself placed among a number of United ‘wonder-kids’. But will the Frenchman be able to convert promise into guaranteed success?
As the early signs suggest, Martial should prove to be a popular signing among fans and staff alike at the Old Trafford outfit. The Frenchman has netted four times in as many appearances for the club and his composure has attracted comparisons to Thierry Henry. That said, the 19 year old finds himself within a category at Manchester United of youthful players who may or may not make the grade under manager Louis van Gaal.
Let’s consider Adnan Januzaj for instance. The Belgian international; courted by many countries before sticking with the Belgians, found himself to be a rare gem in an otherwise barren season under David Moyes. From that point onwards however, Januzaj was frozen out of contention by Dutchman Van Gaal and has since ventured on loan to Borussia Dortmund in order to gain the first team football necessary to help his development.
For many, the loan departure of Januzaj has been a mind-boggling one. The technically gifted player was highly rated at Old Trafford by the supporters and his move to Dortmund; at a time when United were struggling for attacking options, could not be comprehended. Januzaj had switched from the golden boy, the promising talent under David Moyes, to another youngster among many under Van Gaal. Indeed, even a goal this season against Aston Villa was not enough for the Belgian to convince the Dutchman to consider him for the rest of the campaign. Whilst Januzaj did not carry the same price tag as the Frenchman Martial, it could be argued that Januzaj promises exactly the same talent and so whilst one is being allowed to flourish, the other has been cast aside into the cold by the United manager.
If the warning signs regarding the treatment of Januzaj are not enough for Martial, the Frenchman should consider the development of Federico Macheda when assessing the potential effects that could hinder a youngster in the United ranks. Scoring the winner against Aston Villa in the 2008-09 campaign jettisoned the then 17-year-old Italian substitute onto the back pages of every newspaper across the country yet in reality, the striker was placed under more scrutiny than any young player truly deserves.
United fans expected, rightly or wrongly, Macheda to be the next great talent to star for the club, and when it became clear that the striker was not going to fulfil those hopes, he was soon discarded by club and fan base remarkably brutally. Whilst Macheda is making a decent career for himself at Championship club Cardiff City, the now 24 year old Italian still struggles to shrug off the moment that sparked his career (thanks to the iconic Martin Tyler commentary) which in turn has in fact hindered his development.
Manchester United has a rich history of finding, nurturing and then unveiling home grown talent, as the ‘Class of 92’ finely demonstrates. But as modern football progress and the need for instant success begins to outweigh the need to nurture and develop young players into superstars, the casting aside of potentially fine young footballers becomes ever greater.
For Anthony Martial, he could not have started in a more promising fashion for his new club and fortunately for him, his form in his first four appearances for The Red Devils has at least bought him some initial breathing space. Over the long term, the necessity still exists to prove his ability and huge transfer fee to the club and its fans.
That said, in a footballing world where it is becoming more and more difficult for a young player to announce himself; especially at a club where success is needed now more than ever, the pressure is still on Martial to continue his good start and prove himself to be the striker that Manchester United need. If it is any comfort, there is an abundance of armchair Football Manager pundits promise he will be.
Martial will be hoping to avoid the casting aside that Januzaj and Macheda have suffered, and to an extent he has shown signs that he has done that already (his brace against Southampton a particular highlight). However, there is more to be proven by the Frenchman before he can be seen as a success; rather than an expensive experiment, for Manchester United.
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