From the very first day he stepped foot on the pitch at Old Trafford, Anthony Martial gained the adoration of Man United fans(and Martin Tyler judging by his reaction).
Scoring 17 goals in all competitions and winning the Golden Boy award, big things were expected in his second season. This has not been the case as Mourinho has left him out on a few occasions. Even accounting for 3 games missed so far due to injury, Martial has played almost HALF the minutes that he did at this stage last year. On top of that, last season he only made his first appearance Matchday 5!! as a substitute after a late transfer.
Under Louis Van Gaal, Martial was an assured starter and almost always played the full 90 minutes. It is clear that Jose is less willing to do so, at least so far. I compared Martial’s performance through Matchday 23 and also in the group stages of European Competition. I looked at some attacking metrics such as dribbles, shots on target, key passes, goals + assists to see if I could find any noticeable differences.
A couple things to keep in mind:
Last year despite not qualifying for the knockout stage, United had a relatively playing in Europe meant playing a relatively easy group (I wont forget those 10-15 minutes vs Wolfsburg when we briefly qualified for the knockout stage). With all due respect to the players at Zorya and Feyenoord, the teams in Manchester United’s group are much weaker this year.
Also last year, since Memphis still had Manchester United fans (myself included), coaches and players convinced he was the next great number 7 so, Martial initially played as a striker but by around this time last season he was moved out to the left wing. This year Martial has played almost entirely on the left wing.
Champions/Europa League Comparison
CL – 6 appearances, 516 minutes
EL – 4 appearances, 259 minutes
|Shots (On Target)||1.9(1.2)||1.4(0.3)|
*All stats are per 90 and were found on whoscored
When looking at Martial’s performances in Europe the first thing I noticed was how often he dribbled unsuccessfully last season. A lot of this was due to our relying on him to singlehandly create in attack but still that number was shockingly high. This year he has been a lot more effective with his dribbling attempts though it is an admittedly small sample size. Besides this, there are virtually no changes.
2015-16: 18 appearances, 1556 minutes
2016-17: 13 appearances, 711 minutes
|Shots On Target||0.58||1.1|
When comparing Martial’s stats from the Premier League, there are a couple of encouraging signs. Firstly, the amount of key passes he has made has increased and his assist ratio is 4x better so far this season. In addition to this, he has doubled the amount of shots he has on target. With United being encouraged to attack more, and with the attacking additions of Ibra, Mhkitaryan and Pogba it is reasonable to think that the increase in assists is sustainable. Even though the team is no longer as reliant on him offensively, it is good to see that his goal scoring ratio per 90 is the same.
Personally, I think that Martial’s extended absence in the team will be beneficial to him in the long-run. Last year, United were very reliant on him in attack, and this season with the new transfers, his burden has been lessened. Also, this gives Mourinho a chance to get his message across before the important fixtures start rolling in. To his credit, Martial seems determined to work for his place in the team (following Zlatans advice is usually a good idea). That being said, Martial is still the best option at LW and after looking at the stats, I want and expect him to be in the starting lineup when we play our most important matches.