Edinson Cavani’s first 90 minutes for Manchester United on Tuesday has left manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a dilemma, according to The Guardian’s Josh Wright.
Despite not scoring in the Red Devils’ 4-1 victory over Istanbul Basaksehir, the Uruguayan led the line in classic centre-forward style, was involved in three goals and provided an excellent focal point for the United attack.
It was a performance that the reporter says supports Paul Scholes’ recent controversial comments that ‘the problem with United’s forwards is that none of them is an actual centre-forward … Martial almost conned us into thinking he was one at the end of last season because he scored so many goals and was quite good.’
Martial has scored just two goals in 730 minutes of football this term – a goals per game average of just 0.26, and is yet to get off the mark at all in the Premier League. The question that Solskjaer is left facing is whether this is just a barren spell for the Frenchman, or whether his conversion to the centre-forward role is a failed experiment.
‘Martial has failed to kick on this season. In fact, he has gone backwards,’ Wright says.
‘He has more red cards (one) than goals or assists (none) in the league so far.
‘New signings Edinson Cavani and Donny van de Beek have managed to score in the league and neither of them has yet clocked up 90 minutes of playing time.
‘Martial’s season went from bad to worse in October when he followed up his dismissal against Tottenham with an own goal against PSG.
‘He has not even found solace with the France team like his teammate Paul Pogba. Martial has failed to score in five Nations League appearances for France this season and missed seven clear-cut chances in those games.’
It seems a little brutal to write off Martial as a forward following a season in which he notched 23 goals and registered 12 assists playing in that position. And yet the jury does still appear to be out on whether he can add some striker’s instincts to his game or whether those things cannot be taught – especially to someone who will turn 25 years old next week.
‘It’s no surprise [Cavani] left PSG as their record scorer on 200 goals,’ Wright continues.
‘Martial is good at holding up the ball but he does not have the same nose for goal as Cavani.
‘He is often guilty of admiring his work when he should be breaking his neck to get into the box.
‘Over the last five seasons, 23.3% of Cavani’s league goals have come from within the six-yard box compared to just 12.5% of Martial’s.’
It will be interesting to see how Solskjaer lines up his attack on Sunday for the side’s trip to Southampton, but a crucial Champions League tie against Cavani’s old club PSG on Wednesday could mean some rotation will be necessary anyway.
There is probably therefore a little more time for Martial to find his scoring boots and convince the manager he is still the right man for the job, but the clock is ticking – and loudly.
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