Manchester United’s summer transfer window concluded with David de Gea’s move to Real Madrid collapsing, both Chicharito and Adnan Januzaj leaving and the club splashing around £36 million on French forward Anthony Martial.
On the one hand, they retained the services of a world-class (albeit unhappy) goalkeeper and on the other they made an unproven 19-year-old the most expensive teenager in football history.
United boss Louis van Gaal has claimed that the club have been tracking Martial for a considerable length of time and he looks set to add a totally different dynamic to United’s attacking play with his raw natural ability and electric pace.
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However, this article shows that Martial’s arrival could have both positive and negative effects on the rest of United’s attacking midfielders, wingers and strikers.
MARTIAL’S PLAYING STYLE
Martial has been heavily likened to French legend Thierry Henry in terms of both his speed and his technical ability. Martial’s style of play is hard to describe but he is someone who can play anywhere across the front-line and he often drifts from central positions into a wide forward role.
There’s no doubt that Martial is one of the most highly-rated youngsters in European football today and his immense potential certainly should allow him to become a world-class performer in the future. This said, to spend an initial fee of £36 million on someone who has played just 52 senior league football matches seems a vastly excessive sum and contentious to say the least.
The arrival of Anthony Martial at Old Trafford could spell one of two things for Juan Mata. He will either be moved into a no. 10 role, where I think he is undoubtedly at his most effective, or he will lose his place in the starting XI.
No one doubts the Spaniard’s talent on the ball, but one thing he does lack is pace. If Martial operated in a wider position, it would mean that Mata could stop thinking about tracking back and providing width on the right-hand side and instead concentrate on doing what he does best – splitting defences open and creating goalscoring opportunities.
Ashley Young is definitely the player I fear for the most regarding getting regular first-team football as a result of Martial coming to the club. Despite Young’s fantastic form in the second half of last season the club seemed reluctant to offer the 30-year-old a new contract during the summer and there are fears that he might be past his best.
Although Martial is inexperienced compared to Young, the 19-year-old scored more goals in the 2014-15 campaign than any other teenager across Europe’s top five leagues which indicates that he will provide a strong goal threat for United this season. Therefore I believe it’s extremely likely that Martial will force Young out of the team and that the Englishman will be starved of first-team action this season.
Januzaj, along with Mata, are the only two players to register a Premier League goal for United so far this season. The 20-year-old Belgian scored the winner in a narrow victory at Villa Park, but in spite of that he was permitted to join German giants Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan.
I’m glad that he has been given the chance to find regular football, but in going to Dortmund Januzaj may face even more competition for starting places. He will now be competing against world-class talent Marco Reus as well as the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and former Red Devil Shinji Kagawa for first-team football.
One has to believe that the arrival of Martial was the deciding factor in United allowing such a talented youngster to depart. However, once Januzaj returns to Old Trafford at the end of the season he should be able to develop a very fruitful partnership with Martial which could flourish for years to come, seeing as the pair are similar in terms of both age and footballing ability.
WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN?
Throughout the entire summer, Van Gaal stated that he wants “speed and creativity” in his attacking players, and I feel as though he may finally have the perfect combination for this now. In my opinion, Martial should replace Mata on the right-wing and be given a licence to drift infield, Dutch star Memphis Depay should remain on the left and Mata should play in his natural no. 10 role just behind captain Wayne Rooney who will be the central striker.
With De Gea possibly back in goal, a solid defence beginning to form and top-class central midfielders in the form of Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, Van Gaal has the perfect platform to unleash the attacking quartet of Mata, Martial, Memphis and Rooney this season.