Anthony Martial has been ruled out of Manchester United’s clash with Brighton and Hove Albion.
The Frenchman had a fantastic preseason and looked a dead cert to be the focal point of Erik ten Hag’s ‘same players, new look’ attack going into the season opener.
A robust challenge during the friendly(?) against Atletico Madrid saw Martial clutching at his hamstring, which today was revealed to be severe enough to rule him out of contention for Sunday’s match.
With exactly zero fit strikers to choose from, what is Erik ten Hag’s plan?
Option A: Take the elephant out of the room and put him on the pitch
We’ll start with perhaps the most obvious, if also the most uncomfortable, solution.
Cristiano Ronaldo might not be fit. He might not be good for his teammates. He might not even want to be at Old Trafford.
But he is often good for a goal or three.
He only managed to play the first half against Rayo Vallecano before he left the ground against his manager’s wishes, which does not bode well for him.
But the club have insisted that Ronaldo is not for sale and, perhaps more importantly, the manager has insisted that the Portugal captain remains part of his plans.
That means that an unfit Ronaldo could be in line for an early recall.
With United having spent the whole of preseason getting good at pressing as a unit and attacking with fluidity (or to put it another way, playing football in ways Ronaldo can’t), the sudden introduction of last season’s top goalscorer would be less than ideal.
Option B: False 9 it – Bruno/Tadic style
Ten Hag took his Ajax team through several iterations, but perhaps the most successful featured Dusan Tadic playing as a false nine.
The Serbian forward was not a typical “false nine” type of player, rarely dribbling, but often looking for the killer pass.
With Ten Hag’s love of flooding opposition penalty areas, at the very least a strikerless United led by him would look a lot better than the one we endured for a spell last season under Ralf Rangnick.
Option C: Youth, Courage, Success
With United failing to make any additions to their attack, wide or central, Martial’s injury may have set ajar the door to the first team for an academy graduate or two.
Statman Dave likes this option:
How Man Utd should lineup in attack vs. Brighton:
Garnacho Bruno Sancho
Sancho as a wide playmaker, Bruno at 10, Garnacho as an inverted winger & Rashford as a false 9. pic.twitter.com/mSwlnWGRIf
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 4, 2022
While Anthony Elanga took advantage of injury and form troubles last season, maybe Alejandro Garnacho can grab at this chance to build on his impressive performance against Rayo Vallecano?
The Argentine showed hunger in pressing high up the pitch to go along with his sublime dribbling ability.
He loves to cut inside from wide positions and, while he also loves a shot, he is unselfish in slipping in teammates in and around the penalty area.
Garnacho was man of the match in the Youth Cup final at the end of last season and his most recent run out at Old Trafford will certainly have given Ten Hag food for thought.
Elanga may have more experience, but as he showed against Atletico Madrid last Saturday, he lacks a little of the refinement needed to offer real end product in the final third.
Either could start on the left wing, giving Marcus Rashford a chance to roam around the front line, looking to get in behind.
Should Option C be taken, it would keep Fernandes in midfield, keep Ronaldo off the pitch and maybe even keep a bit of optimism among fans, who will have lost just a shade of it on hearing of Martial’s injury.
United Matchday Magazine – get yours FREE now!
The wait is over. United are back and there is a new general leading the Red Army. Get ready for the Brighton game with United Matchday Mag. This first issue of the new season is FREE, so get yours now!
- Online football content like you’ve never seen before
- The mag gives you all the news, facts and features you NEED before every game
- Instantly delivered to your device with easy and secure online ordering
- Click Preview to see more and GET YOUR FREE COPY
- Limited time offer: SAVE 33% on a season pass