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Anthony Martial: United’s frustrating Frenchman faces career defining season finale

Manchester United’s number nine has reached a career crossroads.

Few players polarise opinion like Anthony Martial. Since announcing himself on the global stage with a wondergoal vs Liverpool on debut in 2015, supporters at Old Trafford have waited, sometimes impatiently, for the striker’s true breakout season. Approaching six years later, the wait continues. The four league goals and ten big chances missed this year are statistics that simply don’t cut it as an elite centre forward. Reaching the end of a highly anticlimactic 20/21, Martial finds himself confronting a career-defining close to the campaign.

2019/20 seemed to have been a statement of intent for Martial. 17 league goals comprehensively topped his previous best, with his 23 in all competitions confirming him as United’s top scorer and positioning him among elite company. Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy and Mohamed Salah each finished with the exact same tally as Martial. This apparent progress has only cast further attention onto a dismal follow-up effort. This season his goal tally is equal to Scott Mctominay, John Stones and Kurt Zouma. Zouma has even played five fewer games.

Simply put, Manchester United cannot afford to have a lead forward who does not score goals. Martial has always done much of his best work out wide and from deeper positions, but under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he has been deployed most often as the spearhead of the strike force. On current evidence, the spearhead is blunt. Some strikers, Villa’s Ollie Watkins to name but one, compensate for a lack of goals with an impressive work rate. As has been well documented, work rate and Anthony Martial are very rarely associated.

Despite having matched Martial’s league tally in under half the amount of minutes, Edinson Cavani looks increasingly likely to depart Old Trafford at the end of the season. This would leave United relying heavily on their frustrating Frenchman for goals unless they enter the summer transfer market. Erling Haaland would be the dream but Solskjaer will face incredibly stiff competition to secure the most coveted signature in football. Even if they miss out on the Dortmund man, United must surely be making a contingency plan.

So for Martial, the final few months of the season look likely to be pivotal in his career. Should he finish strong, with opportunities remaining to be the hero in three separate competitions, his struggles so far this season could end up almost forgotten. Conversely, if the performances and goal tally fails to improve, expect United fans to be even more vocal in their demands for a replacement for the 25-year-old who seems to have regressed in what should be his prime. The next few months are massive for Anthony Martial.

Dan Fox

Long suffering Saints fan, Le Tissier disciple and extremely limited non-league target man.

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