You could almost sense the defender thinking, ‘how the hell can a kid do that,’ as some Monaco teenager rips him to shreds with his silky touches. The brazenness of this youngster made him one of the best players in the Ligue 1 at a mere age of 19 – and the vultures were now circling.
Manchester United came calling and made an offer that Monaco couldn’t refuse. In a £36million deal that could potentially rise to £58 million – something that was never paid for a teenager before.
His debut for Manchester United was fantastic. He came on as a substitute against Liverpool at the Old Trafford, received the ball on the left, jinxed in towards the centre, sent Martin Skrtel to the cleaners and played a side-footed shot to put it past the ‘keeper. It was as though Manchester United went back in time and signed Thierry Henry and put him to play for them.
Except, of course, it was not Henry, but a certain someone named Anthony Martial.
The Frenchman scored in his first four games in a row and ended his first season at the club as its highest scorer with 17 goals. All was set for a bright future, but fate had something else in store.
His upward trajectory soon transformed into a dismal sequence as he lost his place in Mourinho’s squad after being played out of position on the left flank. That was followed by injuries, something that didn’t help Martial either.
Martial ended last season with just 8 goals to his name from 42 games – and now with Marcus Rashford bursting onto the scene along with the big-money signing of Romelu Lukaku, things have gotten a little harder for the talented Frenchman.
Against Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly game last week, Martial displayed his prowess as he made the two-time Champions League-winning right-back, Dani Carvajal, look like a Sunday Pub League defender. Dribbling him out of the picture, Martial set up United’s only goal in the game as Jesse Lingard had nothing to do but tap into an almost open goal.
It showed the calibre of the talent that the former Monaco man possesses, but talent means nothing without the right mentality.
Jose Mourinho is regarded as one of the finest trainers in the game. He has the ability to mentally strengthen a player by his unorthodox methods. However, there is a twist: not everyone survives his ways, just ask Pedro Leon.
The Portuguese tactician has a make-or-break methodology that could either turn a player into a mentally strong person or break him down even further. For the sake of the talent that Martial has, we could only hope that it is the former that happens.
In an attempt to avoid risking Manchester United’s season by relying on Martial as the prime forward, the acquisition of Lukaku was sanctioned. However, this could work like a charm: like another Adebayor-Benzema scenario where the Real Madrid number 9 rejuvenated his career after Mourinho loaned in the Togolese.
Whatever be the case, this season is going to be a crucial one for Martial and his United career. Should he succeed, he could etch his name among the United greats. Should Martial not, it might be the end of his time at Manchester United.