We analyse the proposition as to how Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury could aid in the resurrection of Anthony Martial’s Manchester United career.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been highly influential for Manchester United since joining the Red Devils in the summer of 2016. 28 goals and 10 assists for the club in all competitions this season – the Swede has really facilitated in United’s return, however slow, to the top echelons of the Premier League.

However, the player’s arrival has not been exactly positive for the other strikers in the side. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial had been forced to operate on the wings and while Rashford has taken his chances on the wing, which has converted into opportunities in the centre-forward role, Anthony Martial has struggled all along.

His performances have left a lot to be desired this season and that speaks volumes of his difficulty to operate, especially when you consider he was an instant hit at United and was the club’s top scorer last season.

Anthony Martial not being able to perform as well on the left wing might just be a thing of confidence as last season he had been more prolific playing on the left wing than through the centre. However, last season he was the focal point of most United attacks whereas Zlatan has been the focus this season.

And the form of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford meant that Martial had not been afforded much opportunities by Jose Mourinho, who has maintained throughout that Martial has the quality to be one of the best players in the world but he has to show it on the field and on the training ground.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury – suffered in the second-leg of the Europa League Quarter Finals against Anderlecht – has been confirmed to be an ACL and the Swede is likely to be out until at least the beginning of 2018. And while this injury has compounded on United’s problems, it might pave the way for Martial’s resurgence at Old Trafford.

With games coming thick and fast for Manchester United, who are fighting both in the Premier League and Europa League, United are now left with just Marcus Rashford for the central striker role – something which has forced Jose Mourinho to call upon Anthony Martial.

Martial came on late in the game against Anderlecht and with Marcus Rashford having played 120 minutes on the day, Jose Mourinho chose to rest the player for the Burnley game at Turf Moor – a place which has been a fortress this season for Sean Dyche’s men.

Jose instead called upon Anthony Martial, who started in a central role. And while United were expected to struggle, a tremendous first-half performance saw the Red Devils emerge comfortable winners on the day, with a 0-2 scoreline.

And it was all on the back of a brilliant performance upfront by Anthony Martial. The Frenchman owned the football in the first-half and it was he who started and finished United’s first goal – a classic counter-attack reminiscent of the United of the old.

Martial left Joey Barton hanging in the middle of the park and his clever pass to Ander Herrera was returned with much aplomb by the Spaniard, which found the attacker perfectly in the box to slot it home past the charging Tom Heaton.

Martial was also the architect of the second goal – getting past the keeper, who got a touch on the ball and it ultimately fell to Rooney, who converted it for United’s second.

Even besides the two goals, Martial was a constant threat going forward and his performance pleased Mourinho, who exclaimed that United now have a ‘new player’ till the end of the season. The transfer season does not start till June and Zlatan’s injury has opened up opportunities for Martial to impress Mourinho and give him something to think about.

Manchester United face Manchester City next on Thursday. The Red Devils are favourites going into the match with  William Hill’s football matches today and a win here could consolidate their top four hopes.

Anthony Martial impressed against Burnley but if he manages to replicate the same on Thursday, we may be starting to see a new-look Manchester United frontline spearheaded by Martial and Rashford.

Mourinho had stated that he wants Martial to buckle up and show a bit more hunger and attitude on the field a-la Rashford. Against Burnley he did so and if he shines in the last stage of the season – helping United lift the Europa League and secure a top-four finish at the same time, Mourinho might be compelled to think twice about casting Martial aside again.

Mourinho’s harsh-talk tactics have so far resulted in an upswing of form and performance from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and even Luke Shaw. And Anthony Martial might just be the next one to show just how the Portuguese is using pressure to convert them into diamonds on the pitch – the diamonds that they truly are.

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