Anthony Martial moved to Old Trafford under some fanfare and perhaps the same amount of surprise. That is because Manchester United forked out nearly £50m on the then 19-year-old to make him the most expensive teenager in the world.
Brought to the club by Louis van Gaal last August, there was a lot of expectation for the former Monaco forward and you would have to say he matched it with 11 goals in 31 Premier League appearances last season. A one-in-three goal ratio in what was a somewhat stuttering season overall for United.
But this season, life in Manchester has not been the same for the France international and that is because of one man in particular – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Martial’s nose was already put out of joint when he had to give up the number 9 shirt for the mercurial Swede, but now Martial’s preferred centre forward position is also in the firm possession of the former PSG forward.
Martial has made 11 Premier League appearances this season with the majority of them coming in a wide role, but it’s fair to say that Martial has not flourished in that role. His efforts have delivered just the solitary goal as Martial looks to be dealing with his own dose of ‘Second Season Syndrome.’
Although Martial can play wide, he is much more suited to a central role, one that he is not going to get while Ibrahimovic is at the club. When Ibrahimovic is fit, he starts, it’s as simple as that, and that means Martial has to be shoehorned out wide.
The question now for Martial is this; if he bides his time and the days of Ibrahimovic come to an end around two years time, then you would have to imagine that he would once again be trusted with leading the line for Manchester United, but does Martial want to wait that long to get his big opportunity?
If he doesn’t then there will be no shortage of clubs that would want to acquire his services. Three times Europa League winners Sevilla have given up their annual bid to win the trophy after qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages and are now looking to make some key additions to their squad in the New Year, with Martial reportedly high on their wish list.
After the loss of Unai Emery to PSG in the summer, many felt that this talented Sevilla squad would fall away but if anything, they have seemingly improved under the tutelage of Jorge Sampaoli. The former Chile manager has led Sevilla to third place in La Liga going into the winter break and you cannot rule them out of the title race just yet.
With that being the case, they will look to add more firepower to their starting XI in a bid to keep pace with both Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of table and, more importantly, they could offer Martial a guaranteed first team place each week.
Some quarters will say that Martial should be prepared to be patient and bide his time at Old Trafford but you don’t pay £50m for a teenager just to let them sit on the bench. He already has full international honours and having just turned 21, he will now be looking for regular game time in his most favoured position.
If impatience gets the better of him then he may well feel that a move from Old Trafford would suit him best. While Jose Mourinho may well be over enamoured with Zlatan Ibrahimovic right now, he will do well to remember what other talents he has at his disposal but, if he is not careful, that talent may well just slip through his fingers.