Martial’s man of the match performance in the 2-0 win over Watford at the weekend drew praise from Mourinho and fans alike who have been desperate to see Martial shine like that after a tough few weeks of adversity having been brought in and out of the squad by Mourinho.
United fans know what Martial is all about having watched him score 17 goals in his debut campaign last season and we all want to see that again. Neville clearly feels the ability is still there but wants to see Martial improve his ability to go on the outside of a right-back in order to make it nigh on impossible to defend against.
Speaking on Monday Night Football, Neville said: “On Saturday there were so many things that he did well. There’s one area of his game that stuck out for me. His pace is incredible and you just think ‘go on, go for him, go for him’. And he goes for that side-foot pass on the inside, probably three or four times, and I’ve seen him do it quite a bit
“He did get his goal by making that run and cutting back inside, and he’s got this off to a tee. He’s good when he cuts inside, he can score goals, he can play that pass, there’s just one thing he needs to work on and add to his game that I think would open up a different possibility for him and make him do so much better.
“Thinking about Thierry Henry, he had the ability to go that way [down the line] and I think he [Martial] did that once for the goal on Saturday for Mata when it was played in behind him.
“He’s got the power, he’s got the strength, and to me that’s just that next little detail to his game that I think would give right-backs absolute nightmares, where he’s looking to pass it inside and pulls it back that way and goes outside them.
“But he did really well, it’s a good start for him in terms of the rest of the season. United have got a lot of games, he’s going to get football and the fans love him, the manager’s given him a chance, go for it. It can be the best club in the world for you to play at and make you into a star and you’ve just got to recognise that.
“He is a massive, massive potential talent. He could be anything he wants to be.”
You can see exactly what Neville means when you look back at Martial’s highlights from the Watford game. It’s his natural instinct to cut inside onto his favoured foot but defenders are now wary of that, so he needs to be regularly go round the outside to make it impossible for a defender to predict which way he’s going to go.
For me, that’s all down to the coaching Mourinho gives him. To teach movement which isn’t natural requires exactly that – teaching. At 21, Martial’s game is not complete but he’s got the perfect manager and teammates to learn from. Is that the only reason Mourinho is challenging him to improve? I doubt it – the defensive side of his game is something Mourinho puts a lot of necessity on, so he’ll be asking Martial to improve in that respect too.
Martial showed he’s the real deal in a stunning debut campaign and we’ve seen fleeting performances from him this year which remind us of the sparkle he brought under Louis van Gaal. We’ll see that again soon enough and I think Neville’s pointer to ask Martial to challenge defenders by improving his own variety is a very fair remark.