Of all the players in the first team of Manchester United, few have such a loyal individual as Anthony Martial, but even his most loyal fans are certainly wondering what went wrong this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed confidence in the French striker when he chose him a year ago to replace Romelu Lukaku, both as the central striker and as the tenant of the famous T-shirt No. 9.
The risk paid off; or so it seemed. Martial was one of the best strikers in the Premier League last season, as he led United’s line of attack, which even surpassed the favored trio in Liverpool in all competitions.
Yet it’s only months into the new season and the 24-year-old looks like the shadow of the player we last saw back in the summer of summer, with his great hat-trick against Sheffield United in June.
His latest moment of misfortune happened over the weekend when Martial had a great opportunity to score against West Brom, but he changed his ranks, a recurring theme that so frustratingly predicted this campaign.
Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Champions League with a 4-1 victory over Istanbul’s Basaksehir at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandez’s brace put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on track for his third straight win, with Marcus Rashford and Daniel James also on the record.
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Nor is it completely off. What is so strange about his dramatic loss of form is that he is still coming to the right positions, which has alleviated Solskjaer’s concerns on the matter.
Only five more players on average touch more in the opposition penalty area per game than Martial this season, but his threats in the penalty area are almost non-existent with contributions to goals at worryingly low or two goals and three assists from his nine appearances.
Edinson Cavani’s current influence only intensified the current drop in form from Martial, and the Uruguayan showed greater intelligence in boxing, as well as attacking races that the Frenchman rarely showed in his career at Old Trafford.
Such an influence by Cavani caused Martial to switch to the left wing during the victory over West Brom last weekend, and his return to the side was confirmed from the beginning in the victory over Istanbul’s Basaksehir during the middle of the week.
Solskjaer said that he is “very satisfied” with Martial’s performance, and Cavani is now accelerated in the English game, it seems that his best position could be once again from the left wing.
The United manager also reiterated that no player can afford to ‘rest on his laurels’ when asked earlier this week about Martial, and given that Cavani is now a more real threat than Odion Ighalo has ever been, an emergency is needed the answer if he is French is ever to re-establish himself as a man who goes towards man.
United’s unsuccessful search for Erling Halland and the desperate attempt to sign Joshua King in January are proof that Solskjaer will always try to add more goals to his teams, even if he publicly expresses faith in those who are already at the club.
Combine that constant pressure with the opportunity to earn a place in the French team at the European Championship next summer and Martial should be enough inspiration to get back on its feet, but the magic is out of focus, because maybe the leading man could do it well.
The enigmatic time of the striker at Old Trafford has often seen him prove suspicious mistakes and after a terrible start to the season there is a chance he will do it again.