Anthony Martial’s Sevilla debut was underwhelming after his loan switch from Manchester United in January.
After 76 minutes, his time was up and he was replaced with the score at 0-0 as Ivan Rakitic squandered an opportunity to cut Real Madrid’s lead – momentarily – to a point after seeing his penalty saved.
For a player who hadn’t started in four months, his showing matched what fans, unfortunately, had become accustomed to at Old Trafford during his six-and-a-half-year spell with the club.
It could be argued by anyone who was thrust into a high-stakes fixture in a new league would struggle, and that is failing to recognize his lack of match practice.
But for Julen Lopetegui, his comments after their stalemate only rang home the frequency of Martial’s inability to consistently showcase his qualities as he did on numerous occasions in a red shirt.
“Anthony has to give us much more,” Lopetegui said via Sevilla’s official club website.
“It was his first game and adaptation is not easy, he has played little this year and he has to get into dynamics and gain minutes and confidence.”
For those who aren’t accustomed to the former Real Madrid and Porto manager’s tactics, he often likes to deploy a 4-3-3 formation, as he did last weekend, with the tendency to move to 3-4-3 to provide more options going forward.
The 26-year-old has always wanted to be the number nine, the goalscorer, but in the Spaniard’s system he was used on the left and as it has been since his barren run, coinciding with a handful of injury problems to boot, he failed to offer an attacking threat.
On Saturday, he took up the wide position but seemed devoid of ideas and confidence either returning the ball or opting for the easier option, failing to add anything with the clash against Osasuna on a knife-edge.
Let it not be mistaken, the Frenchman wasn’t the reason for Lopetegui’s side going home with one point rather than three but the 55-year-old has already faced warnings from United’s former bosses on where they have struggled to get the best out of Martial.
Jose Mourinho highlighted a lack of maturity from the attacker in 2018. He said: “They’re lacking maturity.
“For example, Luke Shaw. When I got here two years ago, the boy didn’t even know how to compete. Great potential, yes, but he doesn’t know how to compete.
“When we talk about Luke Shaw, about Martial, about [Jesse] Lingard, about Marcus Rashford, we’re talking about boys with great potential but who are still lacking – a word I can’t say but you like to say a lot – having that [courage]. They’re lacking a bit of this.”
Four years on, the criticism still rings true.
With more opportunities in the Sevilla side and Loptegui’s attempt to utilize attackers cutting in from the inside onto their stronger foot, and another week of training under his belt, Martial will have to show his qualities and become an attacking outlet from wide or central.
Martial will need to buckle up and hope to fire himself to the status of a key asset in the business end of the season to repay the faith of the Pamplona side as well as reaffirm his qualities at the top level, ahead of what will be an important summer – however the upcoming months go.
Sign up to our United newsletter so you never miss an update from Old Trafford this season.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.