Football Predictions

Anthony Martial: Solskjaer’s persistence takes step towards pay-off for Man Utd

By Chris Smith

Published: 13:34, 22 December 2020

After five years and over 200 appearances, it’s safe to say Anthony Martial has been a polarising figure for Manchester United.

There are those who will staunchly defend the France international, insisting his often languid performances are the result of being played out of position or in a system which doesn’t suit him, while others maintain Martial simply isn’t going to hit the heights expected of him when he first made the £36m switch from Monaco in 2015.

With just one goal and one assist to his name in eight Premier League appearances heading into last weekend’s fixtures, Martial was well and truly being put under the microscope by fans and pundits alike.

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“Anthony Martial also missed a couple of good chances in the match (in the defeat to Paris Saint-Germain), he needs to up his game,” former United striker Dimitar Berbatov said following a poor Champions League showing against PSG from Martial.

“I was thinking about him and there were fans messaging me on social media about him asking what is going on with him and why he isn’t producing and scoring goals.

“He needs to up his game, not only him but the whole team too. In the really important games, he needs to shine even more.”

Paul Scholes has also had his say: “Martial’s strength, we’ve spoken about him being a centre-forward, but he’s not a good centre-forward. I don’t think he’s got that movement for centre-forward, he’s not good with his back to goal.”

However, the 25-year-old gave everyone a timely reminder of exactly what he’s really capable of in peak form during Man Utd’s 6-2 thrashing of Leeds United over the weekend.

At odds with Scholes’ assessment, Martial cut Leeds to ribbons at Old Trafford with his movement, drifting between the Whites’ defensive and midfield lines to act as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s creative hub.

Martial split the Leeds defence open with a wonderful pass to set up Scott McTominay’s second goal in the opening minutes, while he grabbed his second assist of the evening with a near-post flick-on to send the ball to Victor Lindelof, who made it 4-0.

With four attempted shots, you could accuse Martial of being rather wasteful and, yes, perhaps he should have registered a goal himself. However, the fact that he created a match-high four chances and no player completed more than his six dribbles on the night more than makes up for his profligacy and should jog everyone’s memory of just why Solskjaer persists with him, even through those barren patches.

Now, the challenge for Martial is to turn these one-off star turns into consistent top-class performances.