Manchester United were blessed with several world-class attackers under Sir Alex Ferguson, from Ryan Giggs to Cristiano Ronaldo, but there’s been a severe lack of pace at United for some time now. This summer, following the departures of Angel Di Maria and Robin van Persie, current boss Louis van Gaal wanted to sign someone who was fast, willing to run in behind defences and capable of scoring goals.
French summer signing Anthony Martial provides all of these things and in his first few weeks at Old Trafford we saw just how good he can be. The 20-year-old’s incredible solo goal against Liverpool 21 minutes into his United debut was a moment that will go down in Premier League history and he went on to notch four goals in first four games.
Following United’s 2-1 loss at home to struggling Norwich City, former Arsenal forward Thierry Henry concluded on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football that his compatriot is currently being deployed too wide at Man United. Along with ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, the two pinpointed United’s main problems in attack.
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Are Man United too organised?
Henry and Carragher didn’t question the thought that Van Gaal’s rigorous organisation is the main reason why his team can boast the best defensive record in the Premier League so far this season. However, Carragher felt that this organisation was restricting United’s attacking play.
The clips he showed from the Norwich defeat illustrated the fact that United’s attacking players, more often than not, either came towards the ball or stood still even when the Canaries offered plenty of space in behind.
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Lack of movement
In recent weeks, when the likes of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger get the ball in midfield, they have absolutely no one making any forward runs. As a result, it’s easy to see why United have made the most sideways and backwards passes in the league this season.
Forwards such as Memphis, Wayne Rooney and Martial should be making more purposeful runs to ask questions of opposition defences. Whether they themselves aren’t doing it at the moment or Van Gaal is telling them not to is a different matter. If they were, there’s no doubt in my mind that technicians like Daley Blind, Juan Mata, Carrick and Schweinsteiger would have the quality to pick them out.
Is Van Gaal the problem?
I believe that Van Gaal’s structured approach is limiting the effectiveness of his match-winners. Some people have suggested in recent weeks that United’s players might be intimidated by their manager. Others feel that the Dutchman’s players have become confused on the pitch by the sheer volume of instructions that he gives to them.
Pep Guardiola, the most successful manager in Barcelona’s history, managed Henry and during Monday Night Football he analysed his former boss’ management style to that of Van Gaal’s. The French legend stated that Guardiola’s philosophy allows his players greater freedom in the final third of the pitch compared to Van Gaal.
Martial must play centrally
Henry thought that it was shocking to see Martial, who has often been dubbed as the new Henry, stuck out by the touchline even when the ball was in the Norwich penalty area. Martial has the qualities to play on the wing but it’s important to remember that he’s a centre-forward and so naturally he wants to score goals.
I think that Martial must play in a central role in order for the team as a whole to rediscover their confidence in front of goal. At his former club Monaco, the £36 million man would have bust a gut to get into the box from wide positions but he clearly had instructions to stay out wide against Norwich.
Despite this, Martial managed to spark a potential comeback for Van Gaal’s men by scoring to halve the deficit with 24 minutes to go. The youngster got himself into a goalscoring position before displaying quick feet and composure in the box to find the roof of the net with a powerful finish.
At 20 years of age, Martial isn’t only one for the present but he’s also the future of Manchester United. Therefore he deserves the opportunity to play regularly in his actual position and prove that he’s good enough to score consistently at this level. In my opinion, Martial should be United’s main central striker and Van Gaal should base the rest of the team around him.
Should Manchester United base their whole team around Martial? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below