Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand believes Anthony Martial has regressed as a footballer since joining the club from Monaco in 2015, but he believes time is on his side to fulfil the world-class potential that encouraged his signing six years ago.
Martial, 25, endured a frustrating 2020/21 as he struggled to lead Man Utd’s line with any sort of consistency, before a knee injury ruled him out for the season in April. The Frenchman netted just four Premier League goals in 22 matches as the club finished second.
Due to his dip in form and the emergence of Mason Greenwood, whom Ferdinand believes should be starting centrally over Martial, the 27-capped France international has seen his name linked with a move away from Old Trafford this summer.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed him a starting berth in the recent 1-1 draw away to Southampton, where he once again flattered to deceive, though he came close to breaking the deadlock after his close-ranged header was cleared off the line by Mohammed Salisu.
Following that frustrating afternoon at St Mary’s, Ferdinand took to his FIVE YouTube channel to dissect the performance and try to work out where Man Utd went wrong, highlighting Martial as a culprit for the dropped points, whom he suggests has “gone backwards” since joining the club.
Ferdinand said: “I think the most frustrating thing about him is that he’s actually gone backwards from when he first signed.
“If you’re a player and you look at when he hit the scene with the two goals against Liverpool and you think to yourself, ‘Wow what have we signed here?’. He’s not really hit those heights since.
“As a player I’d love to be able to get inside his head and spend time with him. Everyone thinks they can affect someone with a conversation.
“You’d be saying to him, ‘Are you actually happy with what you’re doing, are you happy with your trajectory of how it’s going?’.
“Talent wise, from what I’m told from people, I remember Michael Carrick first went in and saw him and said, ‘Rio, this kid could be one of the best players on the planet easy, some of the stuff he does in training takes your breath away’.
“But sometimes there are players who are great in training but don’t replicate enough in games. I hope he’s not going down [that route].
“He’s still young enough to change it by the way but I don’t know what he needs, a rocket, or he needs someone in the changing room to be getting hold of him and demanding standards every single day and every single game.”
Martial will no doubt be determined to improve upon his total from last season, in which he netted just seven goals, his lowest tally since joining from Monaco, and while he played less games owing that knee injury, Ferdinand still believes the central starting berth should be handed to Greenwood.
The teenager started on the flank against Southampton, much to Ferdinand’s annoyance: “Mason Greenwood has arguably been our best player since we’ve come back.
“In one of the pre-season games I saw, I think against Everton, and the two games we’ve played in the league, he’s been [unbelievable].
“The guy has come back stronger, fitter, better, he’s growing into a man from a boy – so why shift him from centre forward to out wide to bring Anthony Martial in? I don’t understand it.
“He’s the goal-getter – [Edinson] Cavani’s not fit, Greenwood put him as a No 9 I think he’s good enough to do that.
“So to play him out wide again, that was the one baffling thing for me.”