" Anthony Martial, oh wow That's special! That is special!. Stretford End hero on day one. They said The boy can play; The boy can play".
The words still linger on seven years from the day when a certain young Frenchman announced himself in front of the adoring Stretford End with a goal that oozed with class and finesse possessed by very few. Anthony Martial had arrived. He made the people take notice, and he made them dream.
The goal led to one of the most sung chants in recent times: "Tony Martial came from France. the English press said he had no chance. 50 Million down the drain, as Tony Martial scores again."
After six and a half rollercoaster seasons, where each season was its own story, Anthony Martial finally joined Sevilla on loan for the rest of this season. This enables the Frenchman to get some much needed game time after being on the periphery for a large chunk of this season.
Martial will also hope to recapture some of the form that made him such an integral part of former Manchester United manager Ole Solskjaer's system.
Martial had all the makings of a world class footballer, but somehow it just couldn't work out for both club and player.
Today, we take a look at 3 reasons why Martial hasn't been a success that so many of them tipped him to be:
1. Reluctance to change
Anthony Martial is a very peculiar player. He nurtured the ability to finish at an age much earlier than his peers. While others used to struggle with composure, Martial used to finish with unerring accuracy.
His finishing ability is such that even a few established strikers cannot match. However, the problem with Martial is his inability to appreciate the spaces in front of him, allowing him to make penetrative runs and make the most use of his finishing ability.
He has this frustrating knack of standing in odd positions in build ups, often not running when it is actually required. He strays too far into central areas, which helps defenders double team him, or he will position himself in a manner which makes it too difficult for the passers to look for him.
Instead of putting the required efforts to make those necessary adjustments, he has gone to type in his way of play, with his refusal to adapt as per the situation. This has made him go from being an instinctive bright spot in a dull attacking unit, to being a dull spot himself in an attack which is improving and becoming potent with each passing day.
2. Failure to go to the next level
Anthony Martial arrived on English shores with a burgeoning reputation as being one of the brightest young talents to watch out for. In his earlier seasons for the club, he looked destined for superstardom.
A rare blend of pace, fearlessness, coupled with his velcro-like dribbling and a finishing ability beyond his tender years, After a debut season which justified all the hype, it was expected that he would be well positioned to take the next step into being a world class footballer.
But a combination of a lot of factors, which include his own ability of being reluctant to model his game as per the system, have seen him fall off those lofty heights that he set for himself. Yes there have been flashes of genius, that unmistakable quality that still makes us sit back and take note of his presence; but those moments have been few and far in between.
There is also his often sullen-looking persona, which leads a vast majority to believe that he is a "lazy" footballer. While he is definitely not lazy, it is observed that Martial always tends to shrink whenever there has been competition for the striker spots, with his goal outputs considerably decreasing and overall play being under par when strikers like Ibrahamovic and Lukaku were at the club.
3. Loss of confidence and personnel tweaks
Now it is no surprise that Martial is to blame for some of the reasons that have affected his overall performance, but he is not the sole reason for his overall decline. In his seventh season with the club, Martial has played in multiple roles.
From being a striker/winger in the often disjointed and stagnant system of Louis Van Gaal, to the ever changing attack of Jose Mourinho, where he was moved and used as a left forward. Finally under Ole he was moved to the center, where he briefly excelled, but then once again began to stagnate.
Another reason for his seemingly perpetual dip in quality is his loss of confidence. An on song Martial is a battering ram, constantly running towards defenses and rolling them over with sheer power and pace.
There were many instances where the Frenchman looked absolutely bereft of confidence, and this has resulted in him losing some of those qualities that made him such a joy to watch. He tends to do a little too much with the ball, often leading to making ill-advised runs, affecting his ability to win a foul in key areas.
The loss of confidence can also be attributed to the fact that he has often had niggling injuries at the exact same time that he was beginning to find his feet, which can often have a negative impact on body as well as mind.
All in all, it can be said that Martial was solid if not spectacular for the Red Devils. yes there were hopes that he could carry forward the iconic legacy of the Man United strikers, following in the footsteps of Rooney, Nistelrooy, etc, but it was not meant to be.
There is no doubt Martial still remains a very good player; a game changer on his day, with his ability to change a game at any instant. If he manages to find the form that made him an absolute pleasure to watch, Sevilla are getting themselves one hell of a player.
And who knows, he could even have a renaissance back at Old Trafford. For now, here's hoping that our "Tony" has a great loan spell at Sevilla, and we hope that he gets all the success in Spain.
Written by: Delwyn Serrao for MUSC Red Devils NCR