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Anthony Martial continues redemption arc against Crystal Palace

by David O'Neill

Anthony Martial continued his redemption arc against Crystal Palace, as Manchester United’s encouraging preseason tour rolled on.

A speculative early shot was somewhat ruined by a slip but his link up play, particularly with Marcus Rashford when drifting wide, was impressive.

In some ways it was a return to his 2019/2020 role, as he roamed around the forward line.

Happy to drop deep or run in behind, a clever run to escape his marker not ten minutes in led to a one-v-one against Jack Butland, who was equal to the effort.

Such was the pace on the finish however, Butland seemingly suffered a sprained wrist in the process, forcing a substitution.

Remi Matthews came on and was instantly forced into a long ball by coordinated pressure from Martial and Rashford, which was a taste of things to come for the substitute.

Some wonderful play from Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot presented the Frenchman with another one-on-one and he made no mistake this time, bringing it down with his chest before finding the near post with aplomb.

With both fullbacks given the freedom to play right in the corners of the opposition area, it is easy to imagine the striker profiting from clever crosses.

That goes for double when Erik ten Hag’s team have the capacity to move opposition defences from side to side at speed.

The goal means that Martial has now scored in all three of United’s preseason fixtures and a goal in three halves out of four underlines his attacking contribution.

But his creative play also came to the fore in the second half, as another run in behind led to a clever combination between himself, Donny van der Beek and Rashford, the latter of whom slotted home.

He then set up Jadon Sancho for yet another one-on-one with a lovely flick, making it 3-0 for United.

A key tactical aspect which has carried on throughout the tour, is United’s use of the opposition goalkeeper as a pressing trigger.

In that regard, United’s much-maligned centre-forward has also impressed.

Palace under Vieira have been a team with good proficiency in playing out from the back, so forcing them into long and hopeful passes will have been a real positive for Ten Hag, regardless of the strength of the team they were able to field.

Martial has been key to that approach in leading the press whenever the goalkeeper is on the ball and today the Red Devils were able to benefit by mopping up those low-percentage passes.

His pressing also forced a turnover that led to a one-vs-one for Bruno Fernandes, although the resultant shot was blazed over.

With Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation still up in the air, United must bank of the Frenchman’s fitness, so seeing him complete an hour despite taking a clearance to the face early on will be a positive, particularly when he looks like so complete a player.

He looks a million miles away from the lost boy of Seville under Ten Hag.

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