Anthony Martial’s hat trick against Sheffield United last night was hugely important, not because of the quality of the goals, but actually for the opposite.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been saying for some time that Martial needs to ‘read and sniff where there’s going to be a chance’ and to score more ‘scruffy goals’, something the Frenchman finally seemed to click into action yesterday evening.
Nobody at Old Trafford has ever doubted Martial’s talent but in his new role as a striker there has been a great deal of frustration at his inability to make his runs into the box at the right time and be on the end of crosses. All too often he has lurked on the edge of the area or drifted out wide leaving the penalty area vacant.
But yesterday something changed. It is hard to tell as yet whether it was the difference in personnel around him – with Mason Greenwood providing a counterfoil on the right, or the Pogba-Fernandes combination supplying him from midfield – or whether it was simply that he has now managed to implement the ‘scruffy goal’ element to his game that Solskjaer has been craving.
It is easy to get carried away, of course, but if it is the latter, imagine what might have just been born before our eyes: the complete modern centre forward. If Anthony can replicate the positional excellence he demonstrated yesterday, it will surely propel him from enigmatic, unpredictable talent to a 30-goals-per-season Ballon d’Or contender.
It is easy to forget that Martial is still only 24 years old – three years younger than Paul Pogba and arguably two or three years away from his prime years. If the growth he showed yesterday was not just a blip and becomes the norm, it will be as if Manchester United have just signed one of the world’s best strikers. It will be a case of ‘throw the striker transfer shortlist out of the window and concentrate on other areas.’
If United manage to keep hold of Pogba and strengthen the right flank with a player like Jadon Sancho, it will only improve the service to Martial next term. If confidence and focus remain high, the sky is the limit for the former Monaco man.
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