Anthony Martial was whistled by Sevilla supporters as he left the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium pitch on Sunday afternoon. There was excitement in Spain when the forward signed on loan from Manchester United, but the move isn’t working out.
Martial has scored one goal and provided one assist across his eight appearances for Sevilla and his desire was questioned at the weekend following Sevilla’s goalless draw with Real Sociedad. It was groundhog day for Martial. The Frenchman has never been short of talent but his moments of brilliance at Old Trafford were too few and far between. Those same problems have resurfaced at Sevilla.
Martial’s United debut back in 2015 was unforgettable. His sensational goal against Liverpool from the substitute bench had United fans dreaming of the future. That remarkable cameo was made all the more enchanting by his £36m price tag combined with his low profile of him. There wasn’t much known about Martial before that game, yet all he needed was a moment to make a lasting impression.
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The 26-year-old immediately broke into United’s first team as a teenager following that glittering debut. Him’s ceiling of his potential was n’t even close to being reached and he looked like a genuinely world-class player in waiting in the 2016 semi-final of the FA Cup later that season. Martial assisted the first against Everton on that occasion and then scored a thumping late matchwinner.
While that was the dream start for Martial in Manchester, his time in England then regressed into somewhat of a nightmare. Martial has had two good seasons in seven and he’s struggled with injury, while the instability around United has n’t helped his cause of it. His decline has not happened overnight but being whistled in Seville is a far cry from his romantic debut at Old Trafford in 2015.
Martial’s reality check serves as a warning to all youngsters lucky enough to break into United’s first team. Although it is an outstanding achievement to progress from the academy to the first team, the next challenge is to remain there.
You wouldn’t blame a teenager for getting lost in the hype of breaking through into the first team but immediately aiming to consolidate a position in the starting line up after making that first step is what separates the great from the good.
Anthony Elanga has the potential to be better than great. The youngster had been the academy’s worst-kept secret for some time and his breakthrough under Ralf Rangnick this season has been well deserved and perhaps overdue. The respective breakthroughs of Martial and Elanga to United’s first team have obvious similarities and the latter can learn from his more senior teammate.
Elanga caught Rangnick’s attention in the interim boss’ first training session at the club and his work at Carrington — the German has since admitted he wished more at United trained like Elanga — has earned him more opportunities on the pitch.
Elanga’s start against Aston Villa in January had been coming after bright substitute appearances and it felt significant. Elanga was proactive in that match and he started again versus Brentford — when he scored the opening goal and played the full 90 minutes.
The 19-year-old has been handed four more Premier League starts since that 3-1 win in London. His place of him in the starting XI against Manchester City was a vote of confidence from Rangnick, but Elanga has so far failed to sustain an exceptional performance for a full match.
That has left Rangnick wondering if he’s more effective from the bench, like he was when scoring away against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. Elanga was recently named as a sub against Tottenham and was brought off first after starting in the second leg against Atletico. He has struggled to make a starting position of his own, but that’s hardly a criticism considering his limited experience of it.
Elanga’s breakthrough this season should be celebrated. His emergence from him has been one of few positives in a disastrous campaign for United and, like Martial seven years ago, he’s got an extraordinarily high ceiling.
Elanga’s next challenge at United is to sustain a standout performance for a full 90 minutes and the rest will follow.
The youngster will attempt to make himself indispensable next season, which is something Martial eventually failed to do.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.