Very few Man United fans had heard of Anthony Martial when he was announced as a surprise deadline day signing in the summer of 2015.
The winger was pretty much unknown when United forked out £36 million for him from Monaco – duly making him the game’s most expensive teenager at the time.
But he very quickly announced himself to the expectant United fan base, making his debut as a 65th-minute substitute two weeks later against Liverpool and scoring the final goal of a 3–1 win in the process.
It was the stuff of dreams and made Martial an instant fan favourite.
But less than three years later, he’s rumoured to be on the verge of a summer exit after a growing steadily more frustrated under Jose Mourinho.
According to various reports, Martial is fed up with his lack of playing time at the club and is pushing for a move at the end of the season.
Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Juventus are all interested apparently, and rightly so.
Usually, when Mourinho doesn’t favour a player, they end up being booted out of the club sooner rather than later.
That was certainly the case with Kevin de Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku during his second stint at Chelsea.
And that’s turned out to be a bit of a triple whammy for Mourinho this season, with Salah and de Bruyne both playing exceptionally well, while Lukaku was one of the biggest movers last summer – joining Mourinho’s United for £90m from Everton.
De Bruyne has been the driving force behind Man City’s title-winning campaign, but was severely underused at Chelsea under Mourinho before he was flogged to Wolfsburg in 2014, going onto to prove his ability in Germany. He moved to Man City just 18 months later for £55m.
And it’s the same with Salah, who was never given a run of games at Stamford Bridge, making just 13 league appearances under Mourinho before heading off to Italy.
Just a year later, Liverpool broke their club transfer record to him back to the Premier League and it’s safe to say he’s been one of their best-ever signings.
Will Martial go the same way?
Other than losing Martial in the summer, the biggest fear for United fans is that he becomes the next big Mourinho mistake.
The 22-year-old certainly has great ability, with blistering pace, an arsenal of tricks and an eye for goal, and it’s certainly not lost on France coach Didier Deschamps, who continues to pick Martial for his squads – despite his lack of game time – and duly started him in their recent friendly win over Russia.
And there’s no doubt clubs across Europe would love to sign him up. You can’t help but feel that he’d come back to haunt Mourinho if he was allowed to leave.
Patience is a virtue
But does Martial really want to leave?
He’s certainly one of those players who goes through patches of great form, followed by long periods of inconsistency.
He began this season very well, scoring five goals in the opening nine games and was even voted the club’s Player of the Month back in January.
But since then, he’s struggled for game time and form and can probably count his starting opportunities since the new year on one hand.
Maybe he just needs to be patient.
After all, Mourinho likes his wide players to add more to their game than simply surging forward and attacking the opposition defence.
He needs to be contributing to much more, while working on his consistency – only then will he be a key figure for United.
But if Mourinho runs out of patience and decides to move him on, then he could go onto become one of his gravest footballing mistakes – far bigger than selling off de Bruyne and Salah.
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