Will Martial be fit enough to rebuild Man United?

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is a big fan of Anthony Martial. He said a lot. He likes his speed and technical ability. He thinks of himself as a good finisher and likes the way he puts pressure on defenders.

The only thing he doesn’t like is his availability – or lack of it – and that factor could cost the French striker his chance to feature in the next phase of Ten Hag’s rebuilding at Old Trafford. .

In short, last week was Martial’s season. He missed United’s FA Cup fourth-round win over Reading through injury, but returned to the team four days later for the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg with Forest of Nottingham. The game drifted towards a partial goalless draw that was transformed by Martial, who scored 10 minutes into the second half as a substitute. He left the field smiling, but when the teams were announced for the next match against Crystal Palacehe is nowhere to be seen.

“He failed the game when he came back,” said Ten Hag. “He thought he could go up, but yes, he backed off a bit, so wait, be patient, don’t force it.”

It’s becoming a bit of a topic. Martial’s return to Forest is his fourth return from injury this season and it’s only been February. He has scored six goals in 14 appearances with an average of one goal every 120 minutes. When he’s on the pitch, things usually go well: it just hasn’t happened enough.

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Out of United’s 34 matches in all competitions this season, Martial has failed to feature in the starting XI 20 times. He has only started nine games and that is causing Ten Hag problems, both in the short term and in the future. Still living in four leagues, the United manager needs all of his options to navigate a season that could stretch to 65 games.

Martial, 27 and in his eighth season at the club, is one of only two recognized centre-backs in the team along with a loan signing in January. Wout Weghorst, but they are very different players. While Martial is sharp and mobile, Weghorst, 1m68 tall, is a target.

Weghorst has shown how he can come on from the bench as a worthwhile option in time. Netherlands‘ dramatic defeat in the quarterfinals of the previous World Cup Argentina in Qatar, but with Martial’s absence, he has started United’s last six matches. It’s not Weghorst’s fault, but he can look a bit out of place as United try to attack with speed and purpose.

Meanwhile, Martial brings something very different. “The qualities of Anthony Martial are now very important to our game,” Ten Hag said earlier this season. “His movements, his ability to keep the ball, his ability to press, don’t forget that. In my way of playing, I like the Antony Martial style because he can keep the ball. He’s the one. one goal, he can link, but he can also run. He has speed, he can finish and press well.

“He plays very well in many aspects of football. I am satisfied with that, except for his readiness.”

That is something that is likely to be detrimental to Martial as Ten Hag begins to draw up plans for the next phase of United’s development.

Sources familiar with the situation have told ESPN that signing a new striker is a priority for the club ahead of the summer transfer window, with there also plans to bring in a central midfielder. and goalkeeper. The size of United’s potential transfer budget is unclear while the future of club ownership remains unclear, but it is likely that some first-team players will be allowed to leave for a suitable fee. in an effort to increase the amount available.

Martial’s contract at Old Trafford runs until 2024, with the option of an extra year, and while Ten Hag has been clear about the appreciation he holds, he wants a group of players that he holds dear. he knows he can be relied on. That’s one of the reasons why he’s so excited about the arrival of Casemirowho started 22 of United’s last 25 games before being sent off against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Ten Hag will be hoping that Martial can get out of a nasty first half of the season to be a key part of his bid to win the title and break into the top four between now and May. Despite missing most of the campaign, he is still United’s third-highest scorer after Marcus Rashford And Bruno Fernandes and if Ten Hag picks his best line-up from a perfectly matched team, then Martial will be in it.

Given his high level of appreciation by Ten Hag and his staff, it would come as no surprise if Martial is part of their plans for the future. But before an important summer, he must first prove he can be available and this season, that simply hasn’t been enough.


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