In a little under a year’s time, it will be a decade since Manchester United sent Cristiano Ronaldo out on loan to win a record-breaking further four Champions League trophies and a quadruple of Ballon d’Or’s with Real Madrid.
Current United starlet Anthony Martial - still only 22-years-old - is just two years away from the same age that CR7 departed Old Trafford.
The flavour of the month, the talented Frenchman has enjoyed a massive resurgence thanks to what seems like the repairing of a fragmented relationship he seemed to be sharing with manager Jose Mourinho, and has quickly become arguably United’s most important player in recent weeks.
However, no fixture so far this season has been more important than the trip to Turin the Red Devils find themselves on, where Martial will come face-to-face with the man who previously enjoyed the adoration he currently revels in.
Ronaldo made the move to Juventus from the Santiago Bernabeu this summer with the widely regarded reason of achieving European glory for La Vecchia Signora for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, but with the personal incentive of continuing to spread his empire across the continent.
Even at the age of 33, his name remains the benchmark for the sparkling array of stars trying to make their mark on the grand stage.
Martial is certainly considered one of the them, but with the added pressure of initially following the recognisable trajectory Ronaldo endured.
In the summer of 2015, Martial came to United with a relatively more monstrous fee than the one Sir Alex Ferguson had to gratefully donate to Sporting CP back in 2003. A meagre £12.2million for Ronaldo 15 years ago makes peanuts look like pine nuts for a man who went on to accumulate close to £200million worth of transfers.
Likewise, whilst much has been made of the amount United had to part with to bring the then 19-year-old Martial from AS Monaco (mainly to do with the fact that he was for a time the most expensive teenager in the history of the game), the talented marksmen is now going some way to repay it.
‘Undoubtedly the most exciting debut performance I’ve ever seen’ were the words declared by footballing legend George Best after Ronaldo - wearing his number seven - took to the pitch as a substitute against Bolton.
Similarly to Ronaldo the weight of expectation was thrust onto the young Frenchman’s shoulders, who responded emphatically with a now-legendary goal on his debut against fierce rivals Liverpool. The endearment garnered that day in the 3-1 drubbing of the Merseyside club has gone some way to retain the faith in the player from the United contingent through several difficult subsequent years.
But can Martial even begin to consider emulating the success of Ronaldo? The statistics between the two after taking compare to the stepping stones in Manchester are extremely interesting to consider.
For a start, Martial had a more prolific start to his career with United, recording a tally of 17 goals across 49 appearances across all competitions under Louis Van Gaal. Ronaldo, in comparison, and six in 40, predominantly operating on the opposite flank to the one Martial currently favours.
With tonight’s Champions League match-up between Juventus and Manchester United taking the spotlight, how do the two compare in Europe’s premier competition at the same stage?
Martial is now in his fourth season at Manchester United, and currently in his third Champions League - having missed out in his second season after the club had failed to qualify for the 2015/16 campaign.
He has amassed four goals in the competition - in 17 games - his goal against Young Boys in the opening game of Group H coming almost a year since his last (scored away against CSKA Moscow in September 2017).
In the first three seasons at Manchester United, Ronaldo suffered a drought that ran across both the 2003/04 and 2004/05 seasons and over the six games in 2005/06, when United failed to get out of the group stages (in a group that featured Villareal, Benfica, and Lille).
Ronaldo’s failure to score remain the only three seasons in the past 16 years when the prancing Portuguese prince has not registered a goal in the competition. Since then he’s become the Champions League’s all time top-goalscorer, with a record of 121 strikes in 159 (a stat that United ideally wouldn’t like him to better tonight at the Allianz).
Including all European competition at the same point of their United careers, (with consideration to the lesser regarded Europa League) Martial has registered six goals in 30 appearances to Ronaldo’s three in 29.
Ronaldo however retains the bragging rights with his initial assists (seven to two).
With Martial’s contract expiring at the end of the season, United fans are eager to tie down the forward to a new contract. The stats reflect that he most certainly has the ability to think about reaching the echelons that Ronaldo’s has brokered.,
If Martial had continue his fine vein of form that he is currently experiencing - five goals in his last four appearances - silverware might not be completely elusive from the Red Devils as previously thought. Whether he can reach the pinnacle that Ronaldo has set is for our enjoyment over the next several years.