Anthony Martial’s stock is at record lows, and his future at Manchester United is now in doubt after he agreed to a six-month loan spell at Sevilla until the end of the season.
But what happened to the once-promising career of that bright-eyed 19-year-old who burst onto the scene with a debut goal against Liverpool and left commentator Martin Tyler in awe?
Let’s start with one of the biggest complaints United fans have had with Martial throughout his Old Trafford career, and that is that he “can’t handle the competition”.
Martial scored 17 goals and provided nine assists during his debut season at United, playing as a main striker during the early part of the season and then alongside Marcus Rashford towards the end of it, a huge comeback.
However, Louis van Gaal was sacked at the end of the season and José Mourinho joined. Mourinho brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and completely converted Anthony Martial into a winger.
Martial’s playing time dropped from the more than 4,000 minutes he played under Van Gaal to 2,513, where he scored eight goals and provided eight more assists, which is still a decent performance.
It was clear that Martial saw himself as a striker and hoped to return to the role once Ibrahimovic left the club. But, with the signing of Romelu Lukaku in 2017, Martial did not complain and continued to put up good numbers that season, contributing 11 goals and nine assists in 2,337 minutes.
And how was he congratulated for this?
Mourinho signed Alexis Sánchez to be the starting winger in his position. Some may refer to this as not being able to deal with the competition. Still, when you look at it from Martial’s perspective, he consistently put up good numbers when he played and was rewarded for having obstacles to getting the starting XI into place.
It was clear from the money and salaries involved in the Ibrahimovic, Lukaku and Sanchez deals that they would be the designated starters, which is enough to demoralize any player.
And then there is the issue of Martial’s best role and position because it seems that both the players and the coaches who have managed him are confused about it.
Martial has served as a striker who connects the game, where some of his best football came under Solskjaer. But again, United brought in Edinson Cavani (who of all the players signed to compete with Martial and provided the most level playing field) and Cristiano Ronaldo, who neither player can be considered a starter.
But then Martial was pushed wide open as a winger and inside forward. He has also played as a second striker and a pure nine.
This confusion over player position and role is back with Rashford and Mason Greenwood. It is just another example of the club failing to fully develop the players and their strengths.
Greenwood would be United’s next big number nine, but he has spent most of his time playing on the right flank since breaking into the team.
Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester United! That’s why we’ve decided to complement our extensive coverage of United on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform aimed specifically at United fans: United in my mind.
Writers and presenters who share their passion for the red side of Manchester will produce written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands and in the press box.
But ultimately, part of the blame must fall on Martial as he is not entirely innocent in this situation. Last season the Frenchman was lousy and at times seemed not to care what was happening.
‘Lazy’ was a word that got thrown around a lot, but I think he seemed like a player who had given up. It started when the player returned late to training after the European Championship and seemed to spiral from there.
Overall, Martial’s situation is one long, twisted failure that shows the failings of both United’s structure and the player on a personal level.
His transfer to Sevilla opens a new page in his history. Hopefully it will give him the chance to get back to his best form and then either return to United and play a big part in his new project or move to another club while securing United the top rate.
Do you think Martial will prosper at Sevilla? Follow our writer United On My Mind Casey Evans on Twitter and Join in the discussion in the comments section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.