A year ago, Manchester United supporters thought they had a frontline ready to conquer world football.
Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney had been joined by Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria, whilst the inconsistent Danny Welbeck had finally been offloaded to Arsenal.
How wrong they were. It is the previously unknown Anthony Martial that carries the club’s future on his shoulders. The Frenchman remains one of the sole successes of Louis van Gaal’s turbulent time in charge.
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With Van Persie and Falcao failing to make the grade as United battled their way back into the Champions League, Van Gaal swooped for Martial believing the youngster could fill the void left by the duo’s departure.
At £36million, it was an expensive gamble. Though Falcao had suffered a dramatic fall from grace – and Van Persie’s form had worsened since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 – the club opted to throw the dice on transfer deadline day which smacked of desperation.
Robert Lewandowski, Neymar, Gareth Bale. All three had been mooted. But Martial succeeded teammate Luke Shaw in becoming the most expensive teenager in history. So far, it has been money well spent.
Falcao and Van Persie mustered just 14 goals across all competitions last season, but Martial has very nearly matched that tally having bagged 12 goals from his first 39 appearances for the club.
His first was a wonderful virtuoso effort against Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool back in September where, after being introduced for Juan Mata, he then proceeded to wrap up the game to help the club move back towards the top of the league table.
They have strayed far in the months that have followed – with many players failing to relieve the mounting pressure on Van Gaal – but Martial can hold his head up high having done all he can to help the man who brought him to Old Trafford.
Only Wayne Rooney has scored more goals than the 20-year-old this season, and the club will no doubt hope that he continues to perform in the future.
Though question marks still remain over fellow summer signing Memphis Depay, Martial looks a real prospect and can enhance his reputation with a stellar showing for France in the European Championships in June.
He, along with Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann, Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman and Juventus' Paul Pogba represents the future of his nation and will be dreaming of winning silverware on home soil.
The former Monaco striker has been one of Van Gaal’s sole successes. If he wins his manager the FA Cup, it may be the perfect parting gift. Jose Mourinho could soon be the man trusted with utilising him the way the Dutchman has.
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