After an exodus of strikers from Old Trafford this summer, Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United prove a ticking time bomb that may just be triggered by a single injury.
The sales of established forwards Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez left the Red Devils stripped bare of offensive artillery. Moreover, with skipper Wayne Rooney becoming gradually less deployed as an out-and-out striker, Van Gaal’s arsenal was looking truly undernourished.
In the end, the capture of 19-year-old French forward Anthony Martial proved the remedy as he joined James Wilson in the club’s striking ranks.
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Many expected Van Gaal to wean the ex-Monaco forward into the first-team to prevent against overexposure, yet with United so spectacularly starved of forwards, Martial has been immediately thrown into the battlegrounds of the Premier League.
The France international has defied all the odds and made an impressive start, though, scoring a respectable five goals in ten appearances. Although inconsistent, the Frenchman is a far more potent weapon than the laughable idea of playing Marouane Fellaini as a lone striker.
However, with Rooney’s rotten form well publicised and Wilson a distant figure from the first team, the burden on Martial is farcical.
A move that was originally seen as an investment for the future is slowly becoming an acquisition on which United are pinning all their goalscoring hopes, and with two goals scored in their last five matches, even with a fit Martial, the Red Devils are flagging.
The young Frenchman is far from the man to blame, though - at such a tender age he has been tossed into the lion’s den in the absence of depth in his position.
As a result, any injury to Martial would prove a disaster for Van Gaal. It seems absolutely obligatory the Dutchman brings in another striker come January, as any slight tweak could see the Theatre of Dreams cave in.
United have traditionally been a side of attacking flair, entertainment and, most importantly, goals, yet the fact their manager has left them so emaciated of goalscorers sees the Red Devils unable to find the net.
Although a sprained ankle in December 2013 remains Martial’s only injury, Van Gaal needs to keep his youthful Frenchman fit or see his side’s goal drought lengthen further. After all, it’s becoming increasingly apparent they cannot rely on their captain to provide his fair share of goals.