English Premiership

Mocked Martial becomes United's FA Cup charm

2016-05-20 09:44
Anthony Martial (TEAMtalk)

London - He started the season derided as an expensive panic buy, but Anthony Martial goes into Saturday's FA Cup final against Crystal Palace as the potential saviour of Manchester United's season.

The French forward's deadline-day move from Monaco, at an initial cost of £36m, rising to 58 million, sparked incredulity on both sides of the Channel.

United captain Wayne Rooney had to ask Morgan Schneiderlin, Martial's France team-mate, who the club's star signing was.

British tabloid The Sun rechristened the club "MADchester United", while French sports daily L'Equipe asked: "Where is the sense in the transfer market when an uncapped 19-year-old kid, who has scored 11 goals in 52 games, costs as much as Zidane at his peak?"

United manager Louis van Gaal made a point of emphasising Martial's "great potential" and said that it would be his successor in the dug-out, rather than the Dutchman himself, who would see the best of the young forward.

Martial, however, was in no mood to take his time and made the first repayment on his huge fee with a wonderful solo goal against Liverpool just 21 minutes after coming off the bench to make his debut.

The 20-year-old has since found the net on 16 further occasions, and his goals have proved particularly valuable in the FA Cup.

Martial's 83rd-minute equaliser against West Ham United in the quarter-finals kept Van Gaal's side in the competition and with the score locked at 1-1 in last month's semi-final against Everton at Wembley, it was his nerveless stoppage-time strike that sent United into their first final since 2007.

His nonchalant demeanour, dazzling footwork and ice-cold finishing have already earned him the adoration of United's fans, who have immortalised their number nine in song.


"Tony Marshall came from France," goes the chant, knowingly using an Anglicised version of Martial's name. "English press said he had no chance/Fifty million down the drain/Tony Marshall scores again!"

Far from being eased into life at Old Trafford, Martial has become a virtual ever-present, playing more minutes of United's Premier League campaign than any outfield player apart from Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Juan Mata.

Together with Jesse Lingard, 23, and 18-year-old sensation Marcus Rashford, Martial has formed a youthful trio whose vibrant displays have helped to keep some of the heat off Van Gaal despite United's pancake-flat football and failure to qualify for the Champions League.

Martial had earned his first senior France call-up just five days before his switch to United, but he now has eight caps and will go into Euro 2016 as a potential starter for the hosts on the left side of the attack in Didier Deschamps's preferred 4-3-3 system.

The only real bone of contention for Martial this season has been his repeated deployment -- with both United and France -- as a left-sided forward, rather than a central striker.

Martial makes no secret of his desire for a central role, but Deschamps prefers to use his pace and directness on the flank and Van Gaal does not consider him suited to playing at centre-forward.

For now Martial must bide his time on the wing and in words likely to give right-backs up and down the country shudders -- not to mention Alan Pardew's Palace -- he is far from satisfied with his accomplishments to date.

"I think I could have done better," he said recently when asked to sum up his first season at United.

"There were some chances that I missed, but I think next year it will be much better."


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Saturday, 23 February 2019
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur, Turf Moor 14:30
Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town, St. James' Park 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 24 February 2019
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Arsenal v Southampton, Emirates Stadium 16:05
Manchester United v Liverpool, Old Trafford 16:05
Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Cardiff City v Everton, Cardiff City Stadium 21:45
Leicester City v Brighton & Hove Albion, King Power Stadium 21:45
Huddersfield Town v Wolverhampton Wanderers, The John Smith's Stadium 21:45
Newcastle United v Burnley, St. James' Park 22:00
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2018/19 season?

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.