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Anthony Martial: Can Erik Ten Hag Reignite His Manchester United Career

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Anthony Martial: Can Erik Ten Hag Reignite His Manchester United Career

“Welcome to Manchester United, Anthony Martial,” the momentous words uttered from Martin Tyler on the gantry at Old Trafford on a rather humid September evening sent shivers down the spine of Liverpool fans and caused the hairs on United fans neck, to stand to attention.

The story behind Anthony Martial’s rather surprising deadline day transfer to Manchester United, was something United fans were beginning to get used to.

The spectacle of United officials funnelling in new signings as the clock ticked by, leaving journalists and Jim White from Sky Sports rubbing their hands together with gleeful excitement.

Deadline Day, albeit, was and still is exciting - the fact United were often recruiting down to the wire was exciting for fans, a more level-headed view is that United leaving deals until late in the day is something that once again highlighted the ineptitude of the decision makers at Old Trafford, which sounds familiar. 

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Anthony Martial was a different and more exciting proposition that previous deadline day deals, the French forward showed so much promise at AS Monaco, particularly in the Champions League

So much so that former United striker Dimitar Berbatov and Martial’s strike partner during his time in France, was singing his praises.

“Anthony is a naturally talented, young, multi-functional forward with great potential,” an exuberant Louis van Gaal said with giddiness in his voice, when the 19-year-old signed on the dotted line.

The Frenchman was signed for a fee of £36 million but add-ons could have taken the deal to above the £50 million mark, something that United fans would later bask in when they were bellowing out his famous chant.

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“£50 million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again,” sung the clad of United support throughout his inaugural season in Manchester, the chant could be heard at it’s loudest during United's 2-1 FA Cup semi-final win against Everton in 201, where the Frenchman so happened to score the winning goal.

Anthony Martial sent Manchester United to the FA Cup final in 2016. (Alamy)
Anthony Martial sent Manchester United to the FA Cup final in 2016. (Alamy)

The first few seasons of Martial’s time in England showed promise but he never really stayed consistent and sometimes struggled under the lights and when he was really put under the microscope.

When Jose Mourinho came through the door with the promise of trophies for United, the pair never seemed to meet eye to eye. 

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Mourinho would often bench the attacker and set him challenges, once Martial eventually got to grips with the Portuguese’s rather strict methods however, he really started showing his qualities in the 2017/2018 season.

With nine goals and four assists heading into the second half of the season, Martial looked like a world beater at times.

Three successive goal contributions including a fantastic finish against Burnley away, his rasping shot going in off the crossbar – with the jubilant away fans chanting his name. 

It seemed like the relationship was clicking, then came Alexis Sanchez.

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Alexis Sanchez was a failed signing at Manchester United. (Alamy)
Alexis Sanchez was a failed signing at Manchester United. (Alamy)

The signing which caused so much fervour and excitement, but the harsh reality is that him playing a rendition of Glory Glory Man United on a piano was the epitaph of his time in Manchester.

Sanchez was shoehorned into the left-hand side of the attack leaving Martial and indeed Marcus Rashford on the bench. 

The Frenchman’s confidence was shot and under Mourinho wanted to leave, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the hero from 1999 then came in, hoping to revitalise his ailing career.

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Martial’s time in Manchester was a yoyo and arguably the apex of his time in Manchester was when the Norwegian was adorned with the task of restoring United to it’s former glory. 

In Solskjaer’s first full season, Martial, Rashford and new signing Dan James were oftentimes a very exciting trio in attack.

The Frenchman however for the first time since Louis Van Gaal’s last season in Manchester, was being deployed up-front.

Quite what Solskjaer taught Martial we will never know, a player known for his silky dribbling, his every touch was like a cushion – was now all of a sudden this bulldozing centre-forward, with a new found strength and composure on the ball.

Martial with his back to goal was a joy to see, oftentimes Rashford, and later Bruno Fernandes would benefit from the Frenchman’s efforts. With 17 goals and six assists in the Premier League, Martial found a new dimension to his game and was establishing himself as a brilliant all-round striker.

Anthony Martial celebrates scoring a hat-trick against Sheffield United in the Premier League
Anthony Martial celebrates scoring a hat-trick against Sheffield United in the Premier League

But with every apex of the Frenchman’s time at Old Trafford, there comes a nadir – Martial since then has seemingly fallen off the proverbial cliff. 

With just seven goals in his following season, the confidence was drained. Edinson Cavani was brought in as a back-up but ended up ousting Martial of a spot in the team, despite the Uruguayan’s own problems with his fitness.

Which brings us to the present day, Martial performed woefully during his time in Seville, scoring just once in the Europa League and there’s seemingly zero chance of him staying in Spain, so maybe it will be last chance saloon for the Frenchman.

Who better than to get the best out of a faltering, low on confidence striker than Erik ten Hag.

Sebastian Haller the £40 million flop from West Ham, bagged 34 goals last season, the rejuvenation can be achieved. 

Haller celebrates his latest Champions League goal. Image: PA Images
Haller celebrates his latest Champions League goal. Image: PA Images

With Ronaldo approaching the twilight years of his glittering career, a back-up and potentially future starting striker is needed.

There is no question the 26-year-old has the ability, his finishing is supreme, his dribbling at times is mesmeric, drawing comparisons to Thierry Henry by the man himself, and he still has time on his side. 

The question is and always has been since he joined in 2015, does Martial have the attitude and the mental toughness to go again, to try and rekindle the flame which has been burning out for a while.

Erik ten Hag and man management go together like chalk and cheese. He’s brought the best out of players who seemingly were low on confidence – Daley Blind (formerly of United), Dusan Tadic and Haller just to name three, I could go on.

The footballing relationship between Martial and United hasn’t yet reached the divorce stage, maybe some counselling is needed to try and restart the love both parties once had for each other.

“I want to stay at Old Trafford for as long as possible,” a youthful Martial said in 2017 keen to show the affection he has for United, when Mourinho deemed him only good enough for the bench. 

The love that fans and player had for each other was special, fans would often clamour for the player to play more. His chant would be bellowed from the Stretford End, even if Martial wasn’t playing.

This isn’t 2018, time has passed and maybe the love isn’t there anymore, but with Erik ten Hag at the helm – the love the two sides once had for each other could be rekindled and perhaps solve the unenviable and indeed growing problem of the centre-forward issue at Old Trafford. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Anthony Martial, Erik Ten Hag, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United, Premier League, Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo, Football

Shaun Webbley
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