There weren’t too many positives from Manchester United’s 6-3 defeat to fierce rivals Manchester City on Sunday. It was a shambolic display from the Red Devils, with Erik ten Hag accusing his side of a ‘lack of fight’ in the aftermath. However, the performance of Joel Glazer favourite Anthony Martial was certainly a silver lining and, now, it could be time for the France international to finally fulfil his potential…
Manchester United had no answer for City on Sunday, with hat-tricks from Phil Foden and the mercurial Erling Haaland giving the hosts all three points.
However, one positive on the day for the Red Devils was the cameo from Martial – who came on at a time where the game was already lost.
The France international pulled one back for United via a header, showing predatory instincts to nod past Ederson after the City goalkeeper had spilled the ball invitingly into his path.
And he then netted a superb penalty, rifling his effort into the top corner to further cut down the deficit.
In the end, obviously, it wasn’t enough for United to emerge from the showdown with anything to their name.
But Martial’s performance, coupled with those he produced back in pre-season, suggests the United star may still have a role to play.
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Back in the summer, many expected the club to offload the 26-year-old.
He had regressed in the 2020/2021 season, netting just eight times compared to 23 across all competitions the previous campaign, while also falling behind Edinson Cavani in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pecking order.
Then, following the Hollywood homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Monaco star became virtually anonymous.
In January, United opted to send Martial out on loan to Sevilla in the hope he’d take La Liga by storm and return to Old Trafford completely transformed.
Yet his time in Spain didn’t work out, with Martial toiling at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium by netting just once.
Therefore, many expected United to cut their losses on the striker back in the summer transfer window.
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However, Martial won Ten Hag’s trust by scoring four goals during pre-season – much to the delight of both the Dutchman and the club’s supporters.
Injuries have prevented him from kicking on so far, with Martial featuring just twice.
But both of his displays have been impressive, especially when you consider the magnitude of the matches he’s been involved with.
Martial came off the bench as United secured a 2-1 win over Liverpool at the end of August, with the striker involving himself in proceedings and also mucking in with his defensive duties.
And the Frenchman then stood out on Sunday, even though City were superior in every department.
Martial has always been one of Glazer’s favourites, with the American once believing he could end up being United’s very own version of Brazil icon Pele.
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Now, it’s starting to look like he can be the club’s main No 9 this term – ahead of both Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford – with Ten Hag set to give him that chance.
Rashford has been useful there in recent matches but there’s still a sense he’d be better out side, where he feels more comfortable.
Now Martial is fully fit and firing for United once again, Glazer’s faith can be rewarded and the Red Devils will be hopeful he can finally fulfil his potential after years of blowing hot and cold.
Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano has opened up on Martial and revealed Ten Hag has ‘always been happy’ with the striker since his appointment.
“Some fans were surprised to see Cristiano Ronaldo staying on the bench for this game, and Martial preferred by Erik ten Hag,” he said. “But it’s been the case for some time now that the new manager has been keen to give the Frenchman a chance to show what he can do.
“Ten Hag has always been happy with Martial since some strong performances in July pre-season.
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“And he’s still considered an important player for the club.”
Martial himself said after the City game: “For sure, I would have preferred not to score and win this game. But it’s always good to come back on the grass and score.
“We are really frustrated. That’s not what we wanted to do.
“But after this result, we are going to give everything to come back for the next game.
“We started the game really badly and then they were really efficient with the chances they had. It’s really complicated but it’s like that.
“And we are going to do everything to be ready for the next match.”
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