Martial Law: Why Anthony Martial's Return Is Exactly What Man United Needed

The Frenchman scored United's second goal against Everton at the weekend
17:00, 10 Apr 2023

Manchester United’s 2-0 home victory over Everton on Saturday was their smoothest win in a good while. With manager Erik ten Hag’s charges looking like a well-oiled machine for the first time in weeks, there are a number of pointers towards further success this season. With the Red Devils challenging on three fronts, plenty of discourse has centred upon who will be joining them for the fight. 

Christian Eriksen made his return to Premier League action as a substitute against Everton, having been injured since January. It had been feared that the popular Denmark midfielder would be out for the rest of the campaign. Given his excellent start to life at Old Trafford since joining on a free transfer in the summer, his return is a huge boost ahead of the run-in.


Another star signing will be returning to the United midfield in short order too. Casemiro has now served the four game ban he received for collecting his second straight red card of the season against Southampton. The 31-year-old has been a revelation for Ten Hag’s side this season, making a mockery of those expecting him to be an expensive passenger seeking one final payday after leaving Real Madrid. 

While United fans have been counting the days to Eriksen and Casemiro’s respective returns, there is another comeback kid who has gone under the radar. The Everton game also marked Anthony Martial’s first goal since returning from an injury of his own. The France international has not been missed in the same way as his absent teammates, but he could end up being just as crucial.

United have coped without Eriksen and Casemiro. They have not thrived, admittedly, but they have coped. In Scott McTominay, Fred, Marcel Sabitzer and the adaptable Bruno Fernandes they have players who can fulfil the roles that pair vacated. But the centre forward berth is less straightforward.


Cristiano Ronaldo’s implosion has been well-reported. The Portuguese forward departed kicking and screaming in November, craving the challenge of moving to a well-run, elite club and finding one in Al-Nassr FC. Marcus Rashford has been scoring goals left, right and centre this season. But largely he has done so from the left wing, and attempts to make it work centrally have been patchy in their hit rate. 

This shorthanded frontline was bolstered in January by the loan signing of Burnley striker Wout Weghorst. An impressive World Cup and a decent half-season on loan at Besiktas were admittedly flimsy credentials upon which to sign the striker. But Weghorst has intermittently proved his worth, even if that has come more through his workrate and industry than his two goals in 20 United games.

That strike rate is okayish for a stopgap loan signing. But it isn’t the sort of numbers you’d want from a player who has been first choice almost constantly since signing in January. As United pursue the top four of the Premier League and look to add the Europa League and FA Cup to the Carabao Cup they won in February, a true goalscoring presence is needed.

Enter: Martial. The much-maligned Frenchman is often a figure of frustration at Old Trafford. Injury issues have meant the striker has only played 20 Premier League games across the last two seasons. But right now he is fit. A fit Martial can have a decisive impact for this team. Cast your mind back to his 17 goals in the pandemic season of 2019-20, as United hit the peak of their topsy-turvy Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era. Even this season, where he has made just 17 scattered appearances, he has netted seven goals. The most recent, against Everton on Saturday, can light the way for both the player and his club.

Martial and Weghorst give you different things. The latter is a tireless runner and a tactical weapon that creates space for your other players. The former almost never runs, but bursts into life in and around the penalty box. They exist at opposite ends of the spectrum, but their skills are complementary. The truth is that if United are going to end the season with three trophies and a respectable league finish, they are going to need both approaches. Martial is not the most solution to all of Manchester United’s problems, but he solves a few that no one else in that squad can.

martial to score first vs sevilla: 7/2*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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