On Anthony Martial: The bright spark in a cold Manchester United showing in Moscow

With Manchester United trailing a goal down in Moscow against CSKA with more than an hour gone, the English club was at the bottom of a winnable Group F. For a European mega club who is ranked among the most expensive sides assembled, topping the group should have been automatic. They don’t have another big club to contend with in the group, like Bayern have Arsenal, Real Madrid have PSG, Juventus have Man City. But on a cold night in Moscow, they were trailing, bereft of ideas, lacking in urgency, contended in passing the ball around. It was as if they were just waiting for a miracle to happen.

Headed for the draw. Martial equalizes for Manchester United in the 65th minute vs. CSKA Moscow

Headed for the draw. Martial equalizes for Manchester United in the 65th minute vs. CSKA Moscow

And so it did.

In came Anthony Martial, the French 19-year old who was bought at a record fee from Monaco even when he’s not even considered a big star in the French league. Almost everyone raised eyebrows, his compatriot Wenger included, when the transfer was made. And oh boy, by the looks of it, they were proven wrong.

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Deployed as a left winger to accommodate club captain Wayne Rooney, Martial drifted in the middle when Antonio Valencia overlapped to find space towards the right flank baseline to deliver cut-back cross towards the penalty spot. The trajectory of the ball merits a kick attempt to have any real chance to trouble the keeper. Theo Walcott was closer to the goal when he headed “that” chance vs. Neuer and he failed to score.

But Martial was different. He’s something special. He knew he could not beat the keeper at that distance with just “any header towards goal” approach. He went for accuracy as he attacked the Valencia cross. He went for the far post — the inside of the far post.

The keeper, Russia’s No.1, Igor Akinfeev, had no chance. It was out of his reach he thought it will go out of bounds. He vigorously remonstrated his defence for not marking Martial. They were focused on Rooney and Fellaini that they, like most scouts in Europed, overlooked Martial. And Martial made them pay with a delicate header that kissed the far post before settling inside the net (he atoned for the handball that gave away the penalty in the 1st half.. Manchester back in the game and 2nd place in the group as it then stood.

It was a goal that brought belief and relief in Manchester United. Not just for this game vs CSKA. Not just in the Champions League. Not just in the Premier League. But for the future of Manchester United. That it can still attract the best (hidden) talents. (There were reports that Chelsea made a higher bid for Martial but Martial still opted to go to Manchester.) That it will remain a world-class football club.

Thanks to Martial, the future looks bright for Manchester United even if Rooney is already on the wa(y)ne. They have another superstar in waiting.

The 36million pounds Martial transfer fee paid by Manchester United to Monaco may have looked a bargain after all.

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One response to “On Anthony Martial: The bright spark in a cold Manchester United showing in Moscow

  1. The Manchester derby this weekend should be fantastic. United have been so inconsistent in recent weeks it is impossible to predict what might happen. Last night’s game gave away nothing – an away game in Moscow is a very difficult game to play.

    I’d love it if you could take a moment to read The Sport Space’s piece on United’s recent form:
    http://thesportspace.org/2015/10/22/manchester-united-may-have-hit-its-stride/

    Cheers!

    Like

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