Anthony Martial’s fairytale start to his Manchester United career has been followed by a difficult 2016/17 under Jose Mourinho. With clubs courting him with offers of more first-team football action, is a loan move on the cards?
It has been a trial by fire for Anthony Martial at Manchester United this season. First-team football action has been hard to come by for the talented Frenchman, and he reportedly has suitors in Sevilla and West Ham United.
The start at Manchester United for Martial, though, was anything but difficult. Having been signed for a whopping £36 million from French club AS Monaco, Martial became the world’s most expensive teenager.
His acquisition raised a lot of eyebrows at a time when United were heavily criticised for throwing away money on players who didn’t quite fit the bill at Old Trafford. Martial, however, enjoyed a dream debut as he scored a fantastic goal just minutes after taking the field against Liverpool and silenced the skeptics.
Over the course of the season, Martial continued to raise the bar and was one of the few bright spots in a campaign of huge disappointment for Manchester United, as the Frenchman finished his debut season as the club’s top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions.
After a disappointing Euros, where he struggled to make a mark for his national side, Martial was expected to get back to Old Trafford and hit his stride once again under new manager Jose Mourinho. However, that hasn’t been the case for the France international as he has struggled to rediscover the form that made him an indispensable figure last season.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic being signed in the summer transfer window, chances as the central striker were going to be restricted to a bare minimum. However, he failed to make much impact from the wings either, and has scored just once in eleven Premier League appearances for Manchester United.
Having flattered to deceive, the Frenchman has had to share playing time with the likes of club captain Wayne Rooney, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, who himself has been linked with a loan move to West Ham.
Martial, on his part, has expressed his frustrations at the lack of chances coming his way this season, but has recognised that he needs to improve in order to reestablish himself in Mourinho’s starting lineup. And recent outings have shown that the Frenchman’s performance levels are on the rise as well.
He had said: “It’s annoying to be on the bench. It’s truly annoying but it’s a test you have to overcome and that’s how you progress. It’s difficult because all you want is to be able to help the team and, when you’re on the bench, you can’t. But these are choices and you have to accept it.”
He played a key part in Manchester United’s clinical 4-1 win over West Ham United in the EFL Cup quarter-finals last month, in particular. Mourinho, too, is slowly starting to integrate the 21-year-old back into the scheme of things.
Following in teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s footsteps could work wonders for Martial as well, as advised by Mourinho who reckons hard work will go a long way in ensuring his reinstatement into the first-team.
Mourinho told SFR Sport, “Mkhitaryan was completely open and completely understood the difference between me and others coaches he has had. He worked a lot without playing, but he worked a lot to try and reach the level. By surprise, he played a couple of matches when nobody was expecting, and he was named man of the match.
“He was phenomenal and people realised that the time we spent outside was a good time for him to improve him as a player. I think Anthony is very very young, people forget, and last season Manchester United played completely differently to how we do today. This season is more difficult, he needs a little bit of time to improve.”
Indeed, Mkhitaryan has shown the value of patience, and having bided his time away from the first-team squad, the Armenian has forced his way back into Mourinho’s plans after making just a solitary start in the first three months of his Manchester United career.
Reports have also stated that United is unwilling to let Martial leave in January. The Red Devils are still competing on four fronts, and with Memphis Depay on his way out of Old Trafford in January, Mourinho will be keen to not allow any further exits from the Theatre of Dreams.
The choices now in front of Martial are straightforward. He could either choose to join a club courting him and return to regular first-team football action the easier way, or take the harder route to doing that by fighting for his position against players like Mkhitaryan and Rooney who are proven quality.
Jose Mourinho is a manager who is known to appreciate the willingness to fight from his players, and should Martial choose to take up the latter option, the chances of playing more regularly for Manchester United will definitely improve as compared to the former.