Anthony Martial is back at Manchester United wearing a new look. The striker’s shaved bald head is reminiscent of a player he was compared to as a teenager, Thierry Henry.
Like Henry, Martial went through the Monaco youth system and even won the Golden Boy Award for Europe’s best teenager in 2013.
By the time he got to United, the comparisons were easy to understand, with his re-watching debut goal against Liverpool like Henry in his pomp.
Since then, Martial has flattered deception. Last season was a disaster compared to the previous one, which is underscored by the raw numbers.
Martial only scored seven goals, as did Scott McTominay. Worse, his clinical streak failed him in front of the gate. It was common for Martial to miss simple opportunities that he would normally have buried.
(Photo by MICHAEL STEELE / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)
Now he has a fresh start and the chance to rediscover himself. The new look is part of his reinvention.
Martial scored 23 goals for United in 2019/20, making it the club’s top scorer. Of his 17 Premier League goals, all 17 came from open play. If he had gotten to the penalty shootout, he would have won the Golden Shoe.
Last season, Martial looked defeated before the start of the season. As the season began against Crystal Palace, he seemed tired and out of step, and rarely showed the spark of the previous year. Edinson Cavani’s arrival also seemed to shake his confidence.
Martial played on the left at times, which was part of his development. But his best performances last season were all as a central striker.
Former United striker Dwight Yorke told Talksport in 2020 he believed Martial would get better in the years to come. Yorke said, “Anthony Martial is like me, Thierry Henry, maybe Wayne Rooney and even Cristiano Ronaldo – starting on the wing, developing and improving their skills and then moving to ninth position. That’s exactly what Martial is doing now. “
Edinson Cavani scored 17 goals last season. If United can bring Martial to its peak last year, United’s attack will be transformed.
Playing for his future
From 2022 there will be an overhaul in advance. Edinson Cavani will leave when his contract expires and United will be looking for a replacement.
Martial has to prove that he deserves to stay. Another seven-goal season won’t be good enough and it will underscore that it should be dragged on as the club brings in a striker or even two.
So the question remains, is the seven-goal season the wrong track or was the 23-goal season a coincidence?
Martial should have a lot of motivation to prove that he can hit his 20+ goals. While missing Euro 2020 with France is heartbreaking, the 2022 World Cup is less than 18 months away and both Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud are in doubt as they are in the final stages of their careers. The path is there for Martial to kick.
At United, he will be looking to recover from a disappointing campaign and Martial is likely to benefit from the movement and creativity of new signing Jadon Sancho.
(Photo by Ash Donelon / Manchester United via Getty Images)
Several United fans have written off Martial and would not shed a tear if the inconsistent striker were sold in a deal to bring on a proven world-class star. It’s up to Martial to show his doubters what they’ve been missing.
Martial will never match Thierry Henry’s productive records, but he can come a lot closer than his contribution from last season. Henry’s quality was its consistency. He scored 17 goals or more in the Premier League each season from 1999/2000 to 2005/06, with the high point being a 30-goal season. Martial’s record of four league goals last year looks embarrassing by comparison.
Now he has the bald Henry look, Martial can make one more attempt to score the goals. It has to be deadly and persistent, not just from week to week, but from season to season.
Do you have something to say about this article?