“He is the player who has spent the most hours at Carrington this season, to return to recover, to get back. It is really a pity that he is disappointed.”
“He is not always available and we want him to be always available because that will improve our game. Routines can’t become routines when you are not always available.”
Manchester United gaffer Erik ten Hag sympathised with Antony Martial following his latest injury setback (via The Athletic). The Frenchman has endured a challenging 2023 so far.
A labour of love
According to The Athletic journalist Carl Anka, Martial sustained an unspecified injury on January 14 that saw him substituted off at half-time against Manchester City. Later, Martial would return to the team to find the back of the net as a second-half substitute in United’s victory over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup on February 1. A few days later, he would miss United’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace with a hip injury.
This season, the French striker Martial has already missed 20 games due to injury:
Hamstring injury July 31 to Aug 18 – 2 games
Achilles strain Aug 23 to Sep 26 – 5 games
Back injury October 10 to Oct 31 – 6 games
Unspecified injury January 14 to Jan 30 – 5 games
Hip injury February 2 TBC 2 games so far
Since arriving at United in 2015, Martial has been left out due to injury in 70 matches.
For most of his Red Devils career, the French ace has had the pace to get in behind backlines but lacked the intensity and instinct to pick his moments accordingly. However, a lacklustre loan spell at Sevilla has awakened the forward’s desire to excel under Ten Hag. This was reflected in his tenacity and drive during United’s summer tour. He boasted the confidence to make darting runs. He became an asset in more attacking and defending plays – a welcome addition to his array of clinical finishes. A healthy, focused, confident Anthony Martial would ease United’s need to sign multiple strikers in the summer, as one more alternative would suffice.
Unfortunately, as Anka writes, even the departed Cristiano Ronaldo (1051) and recently returned Jadon Sancho (965) have played more minutes than the injury-stricken forward (722) in 2022-23.
Even new recruit Wout Weghort (498) could amass more playing time than Marital before the end of this campaign. The fleeting presence of United’s No.9 has made Martial more of a “nice to have” bonus player than a mainstay feature of Ten Hag’s team.
An honest review
Anka writes that in an interview with France Football five months ago, Martial told his side of the story concerning his disappointing 2021-22 season. The forward said he played through the pain for most of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. He went on to say that he could not accelerate properly between August and December 2020.
To his credit, Martial gave a candid assessment of his circumstances in the interview:
“When people say I lack consistency, it’s true. When I have my place, it often goes well, but when I’ve been used less, my performance has not been the same. “It’s a vicious circle: I’m less efficient because I play less, and therefore I play even less. When it’s like that, I can sometimes drop out a bit. A player like Cavani, he’s at 3,000 percent even when given few minutes.”
A cruel twist of fate
Journalist Anka highlighted a sad truth about United’s unlucky forward. For most of his United career, Martial had the skill and physical attributes to impose himself on games but lacked the mentality to perform consistently. Now the striker finds himself in precarious circumstances where the opposite is true. He now has a clear grasp of what is required upstairs to deliver for boss Ten Hag but is at odds with his body to make it a reality.
Anthony Martial has had to dig deep and empty his reservoir of resilience and perseverance to keep fighting for regular football.
One can only hope that Martial’s fortune changes and fate deals him a better hand for the rest of his career at United.
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