Robin van Persie on Anthony Martial: 'I Labelled Him World Class Because I Believe He's World Class'

Anthony Martial
Robin van Persie labelled Anthony Martial world-class after United's win over Copenhagen | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Robin van Persie has doubled down on his recent remark that Manchester United forward Anthony Martial fits in the world class bracket - explaining that his all-round game and awareness justifies the label.

Martial is enjoying his best season at United to date, having hit 23 goals in all competitions in his preferred central striker role, while he has helped his side to a third placed Premier League finish and into three cup semi finals. The 24-year-old is currently the club's top scorer and has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

The Frenchman earned the match-winning penalty for United in their recent Europa League win over FC Copenhagen, and Van Persie spoke after the game about his belief that Martial is one of the best strikers around at the present time. 90min had the recent opportunity to speak to the former Red Devil, and he's convinced of Martial's quality.

Robin van Persie is an ambassador for Enterprise and the Europa League
Robin van Persie is an ambassador for Enterprise and the Europa League | Enterprise & UEFA Europa League

"I labelled him world class because I believe that he's world class," Van Persie, an ambassador for Enterprise Rent-A-Car and the UEFA Europa League, told 90min. "Martial only struggled under [Jose] Mourinho, and he wasn't the only one. Under Louis van Gaal he played really well, and he's been playing well now for quite some time.

"You can see that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave him one of the key roles. He's one of the main players now, together with [Marcus] Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and [Paul] Pogba. Mason Greenwood is coming up as well now, and Solskjaer gave that confidence.

"What I really like about him is his game is 'all-round'. He can dribble, he can shoot, he can score, he can assist; but what I like most and what sets him apart from the good players is that he has more 'weapons'.

"My son plays Fortnite, so I tell him, now you're collecting weapons and you should do that on the pitch too. And if I look at Martial - he has the most weapons.

"His biggest is his awareness; his awareness of where to be, where to stand, when to pass, when to dribble, when to shoot. That's how I look at football and that's why I labelled him as a world class player."

It's been an up and down few years for Martial, who joined United from Monaco in September 2015. He took England by storm in his debut season in England, but encountered a difficult spell under former United manager Jose Mourinho, and lived through tough moments.

His stripping of the number 9 jersey is cited as being a tough pill to swallow for the Frenchman, while Martial spent most of his time on the wing under his former boss - and also had to deal with competition from an out of sorts Alexis Sanchez when he joined from Arsenal in July 2018. This season under Solskjaer, however, he has found a new lease of life.

"He mostly played as a winger before, and now he plays more central," Van Persie added. "If you play through the middle, if your awareness is good and you know where to be at the right time, you will score more goals. You always have to compete against two players, and on the wing you compete against one, but you play further from goal.

"Now he plays as a main striker and you can see that he loves it, you know? He gets three or four chances most games, his confidence is high, his coach backs him, his teammates back him, plus he's got two world class midfielders behind him. Before, there was only one - there was Pogba."

Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes have struck a real understanding in the United midfield | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Van Persie was also glowing in his analysis of United's midfield, who he believes have been crucial to United's upturn in form since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes.

"Pogba is a world-class midfielder. But the big teams need two of them. As forward players, you should get final balls and those balls between the lines from more than one player - the opponents know that as well. The opponents will make life very hard, like they did for Pogba.

"They will cover him double, do everything for him not to pass that ball. But now there's two guys who are making the game. They decide when to take it easy, when to make the ball tick and when to go forward. When there's no pressure, they say 'okay, we are bossing the game, we are in control now'. World-class players recognise world-class players.

"Pogba knows Bruno Fernandes is world class, and the front three know they have got two world-class players behind them. That gives them a feeling that everything will be okay. Sometimes you'll need to be patient, but these guys boss the game and these guys decide when it's time.

"Bruno Fernandes mixes it up. He has crosses, his short game is very good, he knows when the pressure comes there's more space in behind and these strikers smell that. They know there's space and these guys will find them."

United academy graduate Mason Greenwood has earned comparisons from United fans to Van Persie for his playing style and finishing abilities, and he's all-too-aware that the similarities between the two are there. Van Persie even admitted he advises his son, Shaqueel, to study Greenwood's game to improve as a footballer himself.

On the comparisons, he said: "It's a big compliment for me, because I really like him! He must get tired of this by now, people comparing him with me. I get the idea that people compare us, but he's making his own movie.

Mason Greenwood
Greenwood has proven his talent in the United team this season | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

"He's doing really well - he's 18 years old and has a unique way of playing. His finishing is wow, unreal. Forward players know it's very difficult to shoot from underneath your body, and he handles it so quickly that sometimes the ball is underneath him but still manages to create so much power.

"Even the disallowed goal against Copenhagen, he could have passed to Rashford, but didn't. He was at a very tight angle, and normally you would say it's impossible to score from there, but because of his accuracy and power it still went in off the post. His shot which hit the post in the second half was powerful and accurate, too.

"He's a unique player with a bright future ahead of him. As a fan I really enjoy watching him play. I tell my son, I say listen Shaqueel, my son is 13 years old, I say watch Mason Greenwood. You can learn from him!"

Robin van Persie is working with UEFA Europa League partner Enterprise Rent-A-Car. To discover more and to enjoy special rates on car hire across Europe, visit www.enterprise.co.uk.