The arrival of Anthony Martial at Manchester United for a record-breaking fee for a teenager was seen by many as a slap in the face for forwards within the club’s reserve team and youth ranks.
Martial arrived amid talk of raw potential, but with just 11 senior goals to his name during a career seemingly far too short to merit such a price tag at the age of 19.
Few could have been left feeling more deflated than James Wilson, who, having regularly been earmarked by coaches and fans alike as the brightest striking prospect at Old Trafford, has been on the verge of United’s first team for over 18 months now.
The decision to allow three senior front men in Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Javier Hernandez to leave the club must have given the young Englishman plenty of encouragement that his chances of game time would increase.
But Martial’s arrival shut the door as quickly as it had opened, with the young Frenchman the same age as his new teammate and also similar in style.
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As the deadline for loans approached it seemed increasingly likely that Wilson would be allowed to gain first team experience elsewhere. Championship cubs were queuing up for the forward but Louis van Gaal declined to sanction any such move.
Despite now being apparently destined to a bit-part role for the foreseeable future, Wilson penned a new deal this week. At 19 he has time on his side and committed his future to United until 2019. What, though, does the immediate future hold?
The explosive impact of new signing Martial has catapulted him firmly to the front of the pack and it will be difficult for Wilson to dislodge his rival even with good contributions in whatever opportunities come his way.
Van Gaal’s reluctance to let him go on loan, however, suggests he considers the Staffordshire-born man capable of providing strength in depth and covering for his first choice strikers should the need arise.
Wilson, who scored two goals on his Red Devils’ debut, is the type of character to take advantage should a chance come his way and has obviously had re-assurances from his Dutch boss that he merely needs to bide his time.
Oddly, van Gaal described the forward this week as “the natural successor of Martial”, which is strange given that both players are really only beginning their United careers.
Perhaps the manager means he sees Wilson as backup to his new star or as next in line once the former Monaco youngster’s integration into the side is complete.
Ultimately Wilson may need to wait for the current boss to move on from the club before his career in Manchester really begins to take off.
He has been at United since he was seven years old and has gained few bigger fans during that time than club legend and current assistant manager Ryan Giggs.
It was the Welshman who gave the England under-21 international his first competitive start while acting as interim manager.
It was also Giggs who persuaded van Gaal to elevate Wilson to train with the first team following his arrival. It would be no surprise if the former winger had played a part in convincing him to sign a new contract.
Speculation continues that Giggs will be the next man in the Old Trafford hot seat and Wilson would surely welcome this should it come to pass.
Van Gaal, who repeated his retirement plans this week, also stated that Wilson’s situation would be reassessed in December when there is another opportunity for him to go on loan.
If however, United are still competing on multiple fronts come the festive period, the former Barcelona and Bayern boss stated he would be more inclined to keep Wilson due to the greater need to rotate his squad.
Whenever and however Wilson gains his next serious game time in a United shirt, he must take confidence from the fact that the club’s current managerial duo hold him in high regard.
He should not look on at Martial with envy or frustration, only take encouragement that he can have a similar impact when his chance comes.
He has pledged the next four years to the club of his youth and a little more patience could yet see him become a major player at the Theatre of Dreams.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015