Martial doesn’t deserve the opportunities he’s getting at Man Utd


When Anthony Martial was loaned by Manchester United to Sevilla in January 2022, few believed he would return. The French striker had become a symbol of the Old Trafford club’s colossal waste in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age and so few were unhappy to see the back of him. Nearly two years later, though, Martial is somehow still a United player.

Furthermore, he has started three of Manchester United’s last four Premier League matches. While Rasmus Hojlund was signed for £72m in the summer transfer window to be Erik ten Hag’s new number nine, it is Martial who has seemingly become first-choice for the position in recent weeks.

This doesn’t make much sense. Martial found the back of the net in United’s recent 3-0 away win over Everton, but that is his only league goal of the season so far. It should be pointed out Hojlund is still waiting to break his Premier League duck, but the Danish youngster has scored five goals in five games in the Champions League.

It’s not just that Martial is struggling to score, it’s that his overall performances are contributing to Manchester United’s problems. He isn’t the long-term centre forward ten Hag should be building around. Martial doesn’t deserve the first team opportunities he’s being given. His United career should have been ended a long time ago.

Ten Hag is a modern manager who wants his teams to press from the front. This is why Cristiano Ronaldo was pushed out of Manchester United with Hojlund signed for his impressive out-of-possession numbers. Martial, however, doesn’t have the ability – or willingness – to lead United’s press.

Martial is a languid presence on the pitch. If ten Hag wants his number nine to set the tone from the front, the player currently filling that position does the opposite. On his day, Martial’s link up play is worth something, but that shouldn’t be enough to keep the Frenchman in the Manchester United lineup.

Out of contract at the end of the season, Martial is expected to leave Old Trafford through the back door next summer. Recent reports claim Manchester United have no desire to extend the 28-year-old’s contract, begging the question – why is ten Hag starting Martial when a decision has already been made on his future?

“Two weeks ago against Everton he played a very good game so he has absolutely the competences and abilities to play, so I don’t think it is fair, after a performance like this, to go to one player,” said ten Hag in defence of Martial after his underwhelming display in United’s 3-0 home defeat to Bournemouth. “We as a group failed all together.”

Not all the blame for Manchester United’s recent troubles can be pinned on Martial. Indeed, ten Hag’s midfield unit is possibly an even bigger issue right now with United unable to control matches through their use of the ball at the moment. The knock-on effect of this is significant in an attacking and defensive sense.

Andre Onana’s performances since joining from Inter also warrant scrutiny while Manchester United’s defence remains extremely vulnerable. There isn’t an area of ten Hag’s team in good working order. Martial is just one part of a dysfunctional and directionless team that is regressing rather than improving this season.

Even accounting for this, though, Martial’s return to the lineup says something about Manchester United willingness to embrace mediocrity. Nobody at Old Trafford believes he is part of the solution, yet he continues to play. United are doomed to repeat this cycle as long as they give second – and third and fourth – chances to players who don’t deserve them.


Author: Mark Hayes