Anthony Martial can become Manchester United’s super-sub this season

by Leo Nieboer

For some time, the sight of Anthony Martial‘s name appearing on the list of substitutes ahead of games has infuriated Manchester United supporters, especially when Jesse Lingard starts ahead of him.

But perhaps recent events will go some way to changing this disappointment into a feeling of bubbling anticipation at seeing the Frenchman introduced against tiring sides during the latter stages of a close encounter.

Martial has been simply sublime from the bench so far this season, taking just ten minutes to claim a goal and assist against West Ham United and scoring Man United’s final goal during their 4-0 rout of Swansea City last weekend. He has been ruthlessly sharp on the ball, determined to get forward and impose himself on defenders with renewed vigour after a muted campaign under Jose Mourinho last year.

Some have suggested that the 21-year-old’s brilliance off the bench should be rewarded with a place in the starting XI, but Mourinho clearly has other ideas over how to use the youngster this season.

“We are using him well and he is coming with the right attitude,” he said after the win at Swansea.

“We had a conversation abut the future he has here, and I think he has a good connection on the pitch with Paul and Romelu. He is coming and growing in confidence. Of course, two periods of 20 minutes and he has scored two goals. That is great for his confidence.

“Of course he wants to play, he wants to start, he wants to be selected for the national team, to go to the World Cup, so that is good. For me it is simple. I cannot play in the Champions League, the Premier League and the cups with 11 players. I need the squad.

“Anthony is working well, really well. Maybe the little group of French-speaking players – Fellaini, Paul, Lukaku – is a group where he is very well integrated and they bring him up. His professional level has improved and we are happy. We have lots of hopes for him and he can only improve.”

Martial simply wouldn’t be as effective if he started games. Many have pointed to his superb technical ability and ruthlessness in front of goal as a reason to pick him over Marcus Rashford, but those very traits are exactly why he would be best used as a late introduction.

Rashford does not have Martial’s skill, but he has power and, crucially, a more natural inclination to cover as much ground as possible than the latter. This is why he starts on the left hand side. Coupled with the craft of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata, the Englishman wears opponents out, dragging them all over the pitch and matching them physically in a way that the Frenchman cannot.

Picture it from the perspective of, say, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson. You’ve just spent 75 minutes trying to keep the trio at bay, chasing Rashford’s heels and Mkhitaryan’s clever passes everywhere, and your legs are starting to go a bit.

And then, right on cue, here comes Martial. He’s been sitting on the bench, pensively watching on and sizing up how best to bring hell on you for some time now. The Frenchman is absolutely itching to make your life miserable.

When he comes on, you simply cannot do anything. He is too quick, too determined, too penetrative to stop, and you can only cautiously retreat as he wonders into the box and slides the ball past Lucasz Fabianski, turning a decent contest into a humiliation with one swift moment of brilliance.

Rashford, Mata and Mkhitaryan slowly but surely beat the opponent into submission before Martial, the silent killer, comes on to provide the fatal blow.

This a truly superb formula and one Mourinho will have no reason to abandon going forward.

You may also like