The Frenchman has struggled to establish himself under the Portuguese at Old Trafford, but has time on his side after taking a breather this summer
It has been a turbulent 12 months for Manchester United forward Anthony Martial. Indeed, many aspects of Jose Mourinho’s first year in charge at Old Trafford have proved difficult, though the resulting silverware leans firmly to the conclusion of it being a successful one. Wading through the sea of sub-plots from the Portuguese’s maiden campaign in Manchester, though, Martial’s regression during the 2016-17 is one that has left a sour taste with supporters.
Martial’s sizeable transfer fee initially eclipsed the Frenchman’s impact following his arrival from Monaco, though 17 goals under Louis van Gaal earned him the respect, and admiration, of those in the stands. A disrupted pre-season due to his bit-part involvement with France at the European Championships, where he would eventually lose his place to Dimitri Payet, a change of club manager and a string of off-field issues dispensed to the press, however, curbed the forward’s momentum ahead of the 2016-17 season.
Having failed to replicate his early success, the Frenchman now finds himself in a precarious situation.
Mourinho remains a fan of the player and why wouldn’t he? Martial’s pace is still evident, his power is still far too much for opponents and the explosiveness in taking on defenders has never failed him. His confidence has deserted him, however, and his hunger for the game has been shelved. Mourinho, unsurprisingly, has found it difficult to draw the best from the 21-year-old.
“Do I think Anthony is a player with great potential? Yes,” Mourinho told the press during last season. “Do I think he can play successfully for me? Yes. But he needs to give me things that I like very much. We are together for almost 10 months and I know the players much better now, they should know me much better now.
“The players have to come in my direction and that’s the point. That’s why Marcus Rashford even without scoring was always in. Rashford was always pulling in my direction. Anthony has to give me things that I like.”
The truth is, Martial does not have to stand and swing with his demons at Old Trafford. Arsenal have been touted as just one option for the Frenchman, should he decide the fight is not worth fighting in Manchester, with a return to Ligue 1 also a possibility. United fans will be reassured by the manner in which Martial rubbished speculation, though, with everything pointing towards a battle-hardened Martial upon his return.
Les rumeurs sont fausses
— Anthony Martial (@AnthonyMartial) June 28, 2017
“I love this club, I love Manchester United, I love the Manchester United fans,” Martial said in a press conference last season. “They give me a lot of joy and I really enjoy having them backing me. I try to be as good as possible to make them happy, to satisfy them. What I want is to stay at this club for as long as possible.”
It’s that backing, from both supporters and from Mourinho, which gives Martial a platform to rebuild himself from scratch. Should he develop the level of discipline that his manager demands of him, Martial will be a major player for the Red Devils next season. Even more so after a summer break and a full pre-season. The Frenchman will realise a quick start to the 2017-18 season is imperative, though, to retain that belief and have a standing chance of rekindling the level of performances seen under Van Gaal.
Martial has the world to give, he’s displayed that. Since arriving at Old Trafford in 2015, the former Monaco man has been directly involved in 25 Premier League goals – 15 goals and 10 assists – which is more than any other United player.
And while the next 12 months of the Mourinho era show no signs of slowing, Martial has everything at his disposal to force himself into the top bracket of top-flight players and go some way to silencing the furore surrounding international team-mate Kylian Mbappe. The 18-year-old’s breakthrough season at Monaco has seen him labelled an upgrade on Martial, who spent three seasons at Stade Louis II, and linked with a record-breaking move to Old Trafford at points this summer.
The personal element may not come into it for Martial – his primary aim will be based around his own performances and return in front of goal – though a hungry Martial is what United require.
Mourinho believes in his man, it’s now up to Martial to repay his manager’s faith and perform to the level he knows he can in the coming months.