Plenty of talented footballers have failed to fulfil their potential because they don’t work hard enough, they’re not hungry enough or they’re too inconsistent.
Anthony Martial could be accused of being guilty on all three charges.
Does he always give 100 per cent? How much does he *really* want to become one of the world’s best forwards? As for the inconsistency, there’s no doubt that he blows hot and cold far too often.
Martial’s talent isn’t in doubt. He’s proved that he’s a top player on numerous occasions with Manchester United and France.
But the 24-year-old has largely underwhelmed for both club and country over the past five years and is in danger of losing the faith of United’s supporters.
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Martial lost his place in the France team a while ago due to inconsistent performances. He’s scored one goal in 18 appearances for Les Bleus and wasn’t part of the triumphant 2018 World Cup-winning squad.
His record with United is a lot better. Sixty goals in 202 games isn’t a bad return, but United fans have every right to expect even more.
With Marcus Rashford out injured, the onus has been on the 24-year-old to lead the line for the Red Devils and score the goals that win matches.
But in the five games since Rashford’s injury, Martial has found the back of the net just once – and that was in the 6-0 demolition against Tranmere Rovers.
Saturday’s goalless draw against Wolves was the third successive league fixture that Martial has drawn a blank – and his performance attracted plenty of criticism from the club’s increasingly-frustrated fan base.
However, nobody has criticised Martial more over the weekend than Alan Shearer.
The Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer has ripped the Frenchman to shreds on both Match of the Day and in his latest column for The Sun.
“There was no attacking threat from United — they could have been there for two days and still not have scored,” Shearer told the newspaper.
“If there is one man who sums up United’s struggles in front of goal, it is Anthony Martial.
“He just looks uninterested. I never get the impression he enjoys playing football — which is something I’ve not really come across too much in the game before.
“You look at his body language and it says, ‘I don’t want to be a No 9’.
“That role isn’t just about scoring goals. You also have to bring your team-mates into the game and do plenty of running to get in behind the defenders.
“He has one good game followed by three average ones — he’s a very frustrating player to watch. I’m sure all the fans agree.”
Indeed, plenty probably would right now. ‘Martial FC’ certainly isn’t as popular as it once was.
He added: “So what does boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer do about it? They’ve got a fortnight off before their next Prem game away at Chelsea — and Ighalo will have time to get up to speed at their winter camp in Spain.
“But I think it’s time to give Mason Greenwood a run in the No 9 role.
“He’s young, exciting and a natural finisher. After watching Martial’s latest performance, let’s be honest, what have they got to lose?”
On Saturday night, Shearer singled Martial out for criticism in his post-match analysis.
“Three consecutive league games now without a goal [for Man Utd] and this is the big reason why.
“There’s your centre-forward, Martial – no-one in the middle [of the box] at all.
“He’s got to do better here. He’s got to hold the play up better and bring people into the game. Too easily shoved off the ball.
“Here, Wan-Bissaka should take the ball and whip it in – but I’m not sure [Martial] wants it.”
MOTD host Gary Lineker then said: “He’s not really a centre-forward, is he?”
Shearer responded: “Well, he’s got to offer more than he did [v Wolves].”
Martial will have another opportunity to prove Shearer and Lineker wrong when United travel to Chelsea on February 17.
Or will the Frenchman end up proving them right?