It has been some year for Anthony Martial. Not only did his move to Manchester United on transfer deadline day last September make him the most expensive teenager in football history, but over the course of the year he has also broken into the French national team and will represent his country at Euro 2016.
Despite their dramatic extra-time FA Cup triumph over Crystal Palace at Wembley on Saturday, United fell short of expectations this season. However, Martial was fantastic in his debut campaign at Old Trafford and he proved that he is without question one of the brightest young talents in European football.
Martial before Man United
Prior to joining United, the Frenchman had only played 72 professional matches in his entire career. Martial started at Lyon and showed signs of real promise at Monaco, scoring 12 goals in all competitions during the 2014-15 campaign and establishing himself as a first-team regular under Leonardo Jardim.
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Martial’s speed, skill and tendency to drift into wide areas from central positions saw him strongly likened to France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
With massive pressure on his shoulders because of the huge price tag and uncertainty over where he would fit into Louis Van Gaal’s team, Martial made his long-awaited debut 11 days after the move, against Liverpool. He made it a memorable one by coming off the bench to score a sensational solo goal as United defeated their bitter rivals 3-1 at Old Trafford.
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For someone so young, Martial looked composed in front of goal and impressively registered four goals in his first four games for the Red Devils. His excellent early season form saw him claim September’s Premier League Player of the Month award.
Move to left-midfield
Due to the long-term injuries of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young and the disappointing performances of Memphis Depay, Van Gaal was forced to start playing Martial on the left-wing. Although the goals did start to dry up as a result of that positional switch, his overall contribution and potency during games certainly didn’t drop.
Both United’s results and performances were very inconsistent, failing to win a single game in December but only losing three of their final 12 Premier League matches. Throughout the whole season, Martial has remained United’s biggest attacking threat and the player most likely to make something happen for Van Gaal’s side in the final third of the pitch.
As United fans acknowledge with their chant for Martial, the English press wrote him off upon his arrival at the club and many others criticised the club over the huge transfer fee. Fast forward eight months and the 20-year-old is going to a major tournament with his country after a special year at Old Trafford.
His debut goal earned him United’s Goal of the Season award and he finished his first campaign as the club’s top scorer. Overall, Martial made 49 appearances for this season’s FA Cup winners, netting 17 times as well as providing four assists.
A superstar in the making
When United announced the signing of Martial, Van Gaal said he bought him for United’s future, for the “next manager”, however the talented forward has quickly become a huge part of the club’s present. Despite his young age and relative inexperience, Martial has shown maturity, adapted amazingly well to the nature of English football, and is on course to becoming a world-class superstar within the next few years.
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