Manchester United fans are well known for their passionate views regarding players.
One such player that divides opinion is Anthony Martial.
The Frenchman burst onto the scene in 2015 like a breath of fresh air, famously scoring in the 3-1 win against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
At the time, many considered him a superstar in the making, so much so that United themselves included a Ballon d’Or clause in their agreement with AS Monaco, promising to pay an extra £7.2 million if he ever won the award.
Fast forward seven years, and Martial is one of the most disliked footballers at Old Trafford, with many fans eagerly awaiting his departure.
His recent controversy with interim manager Ralf Rangnick led to him being viciously attacked on social media despite his clarification on Instagram.
Let us look at some of the key reasons as to why the situation has come to this.
The emergence of Marcus Rashford
Under Louis Van Gaal, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford began to develop an understanding of each other’s game.
The two were Man United’s brightest prospects and often linked up brilliantly during matches.
However, the Dutchman’s sacking meant that United was set to undergo another tactical change. Jose Mourinho brought a complete overhaul to the team’s approach in games.
He immediately handed Martial’s number 9 shirt to new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, confirming the Swede as his main striker.
Mourinho rarely played Martial and Rashford in the same team, resulting in a divide among fans regarding who should start.
The preference would generally go to the academy lad, who also suited the way United fans perceive their ideal forward – fast and direct.
Delusion and lack of understanding regarding player roles
Many fans from this part of the world have a quintessential image regarding their ideal footballer, especially a centre forward.
They fail to realise that every player has certain strengths and weaknesses which are suited to specific systems.
For example, there are different kinds of strikers in football. Robert Lewandowski as a player differs from Karim Benzema, who differs from Romelu Lukaku.
The three are very successful in their own right but thrive in different aspects of football.
The 2019-20 season, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, saw Martial playing as a centre forward.
In his first full season in that role, he bagged 23 goals and registered 12 assists in all competitions winning Man Utd Players’ Player of The Year.
Solskjaer made one of the most baffling comments in January 2020, where he stated the need for a striker who would ‘break his nose’ to score a goal.
This comment once against highlighted the Norwegian’s ineptitude for the job and his lack of understanding about football.
Martial has never been that kind of player. His strengths lie in linking up with players around him. The Frenchman uses his dribbling ability and close control to attract opposition defenders and create space for his teammates to run into.
The same people who call Roberto Firmino underrated for Liverpool criticised Martial for not being their ‘ideal striker.’
In the 2019/20 season, United fans lauded the attacking trio of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood who outscored Liverpool’s attack. One of the key reasons why this attack was successful was the Frenchman himself.
Rashford and Greenwood are not out and out wingers, but inside forwards, similar to Salah and Mane at Liverpool. Martial’s intelligent and selfless game at the centre forward enables the pair to score goals.
The same people who praise Roberto Firmino for being the ‘underrated gem’ at Anfield, criticise Martial for not being their idealistic number nine.
Martial has often been criticised for his attitude and body language. His personality is quite reserved which leads fans to think that the Frenchman has a bad attitude.
The reality is that all human beings have different personalities. One cannot expect every player to show the same level of emotion in different circumstances.
In a previous interview Martial stated: ” Off the pitch, I’m a bit shy, I don’t show my emotions that much, but I’m happy, even if you don’t see me smile, I’m still happy. Maybe on the pitch, it’s because I’m focused. I’ll try and smile more, but it wouldn’t be natural if I forced it.”
The 26 year old’s future remains uncertain, with United looking to arrange a loan move this January.
It is a shame that Rangnick has not been able to fit the Frenchman into his plans.
Martial would be the perfect fit in Rangnick’s 4-2-2-2 alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese would feast on the space provided by Martial, and I’m sure that the duo could be a formidable force until the end of the season.
His impact could be seen in United’s 1-0 win over West Ham.
Coming off the bench, Martial completely changed the game, and his simplicity allowed more players to get involved in the attack.
This led to the beautiful link-up between Ronaldo, Martial and Cavani for the winning goal.
The loan move to Sevilla could be a good option for the 26 year old, who will be looking to get some minutes under his name to gain confidence.
I genuinely hope that he gets his deserved chance next season under the new manager.