Erik ten Hag, the manager of Manchester United, admires Anthony Martial greatly. He frequently says it. He appreciates his technical proficiency and quickness. He admires the way he puts opponents under pressure and believes he is a terrific finisher.
The only thing he dislikes about the French forward is his lack of availability, which might prevent him from taking part in the next phase of Ten Hag’s rebuilding at Old Trafford.
Martial’s season was summarized last week. The injury forced him to miss United’s victory against Reading in the FA Cup’s fourth round, but he was back in the lineup for the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest four days later. When Martial scored 10 minutes after entering the game as a replacement in the second half, the game that was headed for a scoreless draw was somewhat changed. When the teams for the upcoming game against Crystal Palace were revealed, he was not present. He exited the field with a smile.
He had a setback from the game when he returned. He thought he could build up, but yeah, he dropped a little back, so have to wait, be patient, not to force it,” Ten Had said in a comment.
It’s starting to sound like a theme. Even though it’s just February, Martial’s comeback against Forest was his fourth return from an injury hiatus this year. In 14 appearances, he has six goals, which works out to one goal per 120 minutes. Things have generally gone smoothly when he’s been on the field; it simply hasn’t occurred frequently enough.
Martial has missed the matchday squad 20 times this season out of United’s 34 games in all competitions. Ten Hag is having issues with this because he has only been able to start nine games, both now and in the future. The United boss needs all of his alternatives to handle a season that may extend to 65 games while still in the hunt in four tournaments.
The only other recognized center-forward in the squad is Wout Weghorst, who was brought in on a loan in January, but Martial, who is 27 and in his ninth season with the team, is a different player. Weghorst is a target man at 6-foot-6, in contrast to Martial’s wit and agility.
Weghorst showed his value as a substitute during the Netherlands’ heartbreaking World Cup quarterfinal loss to Argentina in Qatar, but due to Martial’s absence, he has been forced to start United’s past six matches. Weghorst is not at fault, but when United tries to attack quickly and aggressively, he sometimes seems out of place.
Martial, though, provides something very distinct. Ten Hag during this season stated that “The qualities of Anthony Martial are so important right now to our game. Let’s not forget about his pressuring, ball security, and mobility. Because of his ability to grip the ball, Antony Martial fits United’s style of play. He can join up, but he can also flee behind. He is a target. He is quick, capable of scoring and applies solid pressure.
“He plays very well in a lot of aspects of football. I’m happy with that, except for his availability,” added Ten Hag.
That will probably work against Martial when Ten Hag starts to formulate his ideas for United’s upcoming upward movement.
According to analysts, the club is planning to prioritize bringing in a new striker during the summer transfer window, along with a goalkeeper and a central midfielder. While the extent of United’s possible transfer budget is unknown due to uncertainty surrounding the club’s ownership, it is expected that several first-team players will be let to depart for the appropriate price to increase the available funds.
Martial’s Old Trafford contract extends until 2024, with an additional year option, and while Ten Hag has made it plain how highly he is regarded, he still wants a team of men he can count on. It’s one of the reasons Casemiro’s arrival has made him so happy. Before getting dismissed against Crystal Palace on Saturday, Casemiro started 22 of United’s previous 25 games.