Having left to relaunch at FC Sevilla, Anthony Martial especially hopes to turn the page on his stay in Mancun. An adventure that he will have started in the shoes of a wonderkid before falling into line and joining the long list of fallen hopes.
Obviously, Manchester United did not need Anthony Martial, on January 15, to concede a draw against Aston Villa (2-2) after having had a two-goal lead. Absent, for no real reason, from the Mancunian group, the Frenchman had to wait until after the match to hear his coach talk about his case. “He didn’t want to be in the team” , said Ralf Rangnick at a press conference. The player’s reply the next day on his social networks: “I will never refuse to play a game for Manchester United. » Which of the two is true? The answer will probably never be known and ultimately matters little. To put an end to this story of lying poker, the two men explain themselves and the Frenchman returns to the field a week later against West Ham for his eleventh game of the season. Entering the game nine minutes from time, he ideally shifts Cavani, whose center finds Marcus Rashford – both substitutes at kick-off – who offers victory to his team after extra time. Seven days which perfectly sum up the relationship that the French international has maintained with Manchester United, during six and a half seasons between shadow and light. Now 26, he joins Sevilla FC, where he is on loan for the next six months (almost halving his salary), in near indifference.
Snatched from AS Monaco in the last moments of the 2015 summer transfer window for an amount of 50 million euros (plus 30 bonus) judged “ridiculous, but symbolic of the madness of the football world” by Van Gaal, his new coach, the striker had honored his first at Old Trafford against Liverpool, the following September 12. About twenty minutes after his entry, he took the ball on the left wing, accelerated, strolled Martin Škrtel before losing him on a last hook and deceiving Simon Mignolet. A French kid from Les Ulis who places a rolled up right… How not to think of Thierry Henry? The audience of the Theater of Dreams plunges immediately and dedicates a song to the one who had no chance according to the English press and for which United would have “threw 50 million out the window” .
After a rather successful first season from a personal point of view, Martial made the rough acquaintance of José Mourinho, who had arrived to replace Van Gaal. His relationship with the Portuguese is complicated, even conflictual, as evidenced by the many spades of Mou, including this one before a match against Hull City in February 2017: “He did enough to earn his place on the bench. He must do better than those who are fighting for the same position. » It is no coincidence that the former Lyonnais had his best season once the Special One gone, during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Statistically, its record among Red Devils is in the image of its passage: mixed, but above all with an unpleasant aftertaste of waste. Martial will have donned the United tunic 270 times, enough to make him the third most capped Frenchman in the Mancunian jersey behind Évra and Silvestre. With his 79 goals in all competitions, the player trained at OL is, in this respect, outstripped by only Éric Cantona. Placed, but never in front.
The wing or the tip
In front, at the center-forward position, it is however there that he is undoubtedly the most comfortable. Sometimes positioned on the wing, often on the left, sometimes placed in the center line as a real number nine, it remains much more efficient in this last role. An example: he signed his best season in 2019-2020 with 17 goals in 32 Premier League games when Solskjær fixed him up front. What to judge Van Gaal, who assures that the boy was not “not a goalscorer, but more a winger” . The whole problem of the 2015 Golden Boy lies in this statement: unable to become indisputable, penalized by his poor performances, his injuries causing him to miss 61 games of the Red Devils or extra-sporting problems sometimes polluting his preparations. And the golden future to which it was promised has thus darkened. At 26, all is not yet lost, far from it. Leaving Manchester United, which has not been known for its stability in recent years, to join Sevilla FC, a club with remarkable regularity and which had already tried to enlist him in the past, could allow him to start again forward and to keep his place with the Blues, where he retains some credit, with a view to the next World Cup. With Youssef En-Nesyri at the CAN, the Frenchman should quickly have a place in Julen Lopetegui’s team. It is up to him, this time, to seize it and above all to keep it.
By Florian Porta