Ice cold. Sauce on spill. No black gloves. Fresh fade. Back with a bang. Reloaded his iso package with the dawg on top. Bear market, yet Martial stocks just went boom. Killer. Winner. Baller.
Or something like that.
The last time Manchester United faced Liverpool for the first time under a Dutch manager, Anthony Martial scored the third goal having had a point to prove. Yesterday, history repeated itself.
But the goal was simply the cherry on top for the French forward, who picked up Man of the Match as Manchester United cruised to a 4-0 victory over arch-rivals Liverpool.
The last two years have been by far the toughest of Martial’s career, but at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok he looked like a player in his absolute richest vein of form.
From the start, United’s number nine looked sharp. He was displaying all the on ball quality that made him one of the best strikers in the league a few years back, but played with a level of intensity previously unseen from him.
Of course, it was against a weakened Liverpool side, but there were still positive signs to be taken from the performance, and fans will be intergued to see if he can continue to look this sharp as pre-season progresses.
He almost looked like a different player entirely without the ball. Just a few months ago he seldom moved out of possession, and when he did it was slow and sluggish.
But in the Bangkok heat Martial was on fire, and Liverpool’s defence were indeed terrified. He occupied the box, ran in behind and when the opposition had the ball he closed down with intensity and urgency – all whilst doing it at a speed that felt unseen from him since his debut season.
With mismanagement and muscle injuries in recent years, as well as the player’s own issues off the field, many felt that the teenager who looked like he would conquer world football would end up another wasted talent that finished easy.
But Martial won’t give in. The arrival of Erik ten Hag has thrown the struggling forward a lifeline, and in the Thai capital he played with a new lease of life.
Ten Hag has quickly taken to the player, praising him in his press conference pre-match, and had more to say after the game.
“I have seen some really good things,” Ten Hag detailed. “We have a lot of speed and creativity up front.”
Martial was not named Man of the Match for no reason, his ability to link play to an extremely high level helped keep United’s attack moving quickly and he played a role in both Jadon Sancho and Fred’s goals.
The offensive unit as a whole looked far more cohesive with Martial, with every player benefitting from his presence at the tip of United’s attack.
Anthony Martial has a technical level matched by very few other strikers in football. His ability to trap the ball and make it stick to his feet, weigh his passes perfectly almost every time and retain the ball through tight spaces and under pressure all across the pitch are all of great value.
His decision making in possession alongside these traits make him an extremely unique centre-forward profile, one that is difficult to find.
On top of this, he has historically been an excellent finisher. Getting into goal scoring positions consistently has been his issue, but today he looked far more active when the ball was at his feet.
Across his 45 minutes on the pitch, he frequently made runs in behind to stretch Liverpool’s high line and Sancho’s goal that kickstarted the thrashing came from Martial occupying the box.
Martial’s pressing intelligence has always been good and this is part of what has made him so valuable in bigger games, notably against Manchester City – but he has lacked intensity and frequency.
Against the Reds, the Frenchman pressed frequently, aggressively, and intelligently. The three combined made playing out from the back extremely difficult for Liverpool when Martial led United’s press.
Ten Hag’s coaching impact is clear to see here, with pressing being largely something that is perfected on the training ground through team drills as it must be done as a unit.
Martial’s off the ball work often felt like the only thing truly holding him back from hitting a world class level, and whilst this is only a 45-minute sample against a weakened Liverpool team, it is difficult to not get excited.
The player has a special bond with United’s fanbase, having been a beacon of hope to many in some of the club’s recent down years. In 2019/20, he was the club’s best player and scored 17 league goals.
Anthony Martial is a special talent with a unique skillset, and against Liverpool he looked even better than his previous best. If he can keep this up and grow with the team, it can only be a good thing for Manchester United.
Even the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo may be nullified.
Featured Image Credit: Manchester United
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