After producing the best season of his career, with 23 goals and nine assists, everything was looking good for Anthony Martial, after Ole Gunnar Solskjær put trust in him as his number nine during 2019/20.
It was expected that the Frenchman would go into this campaign being one of the most important players for Solskjær, however, things couldn’t have gone more differently.
The Manchester United number nine has scored just seven goals in 36 appearances for the club this season, which is very poor considering he’s played the majority of his minutes as the main forward. He also has just five assists. This poor season begs the question: Will Solskjær stick with Martial?
A clinical finisher who’s not finishing
At just 19 years of age, Martial was signed by Louis van Gaal and ever since then, his clinical finishing has been one of his best attributes for The Reds.
According to Understat, Martial has outperformed his expected goals [xG] in every Premier League season he has played for United, apart from this season, where he is underperforming his xG by 3.41, this helps to show the drop-off in goal scoring form which has been the catalyst behind a disappointing season for the Frenchman.
Martial has missed 10 big chances in the league this season in just 1,485 minutes, whereas last season he missed the same amount of big chances in 2,638 minutes.
He is a naturally great finisher, who hasn’t been finishing well this season. There could be multiple different reasons for this, such as the frequency of matches or a lack of confidence. Yet because of his natural quality and the fact that he is historically a good, or even great, finisher, it should be a question of when, not if, Martial regains his finishing touch. This could be why Solskjær sticks with him next season.
Is he a real striker?
The addition of Edinson Cavani has reminded United fans what a striker is meant to do. The Uruguayan presses intensely, makes constant runs off the backline and is always looking to sniff opportunities out when he is in and around the box.
This has helped highlighted the fact that Martial doesn’t really do these things too often, and without his clinical finishing, Martial lacks many fundamentals to play through the centre.
But we have seen previously that he can stretch backlines and make good runs to create space, as well as being an intelligent presser, but much like his shooting this season, it is too inconsistent for Martial to be deemed a top forward.
However, it is clear that when he’s at his best, Martial is Solskjær’s best centre-forward at holding the ball up, linking the play and driving with the ball. This was most recently shown in the 2-0 victory against Manchester City, where Martial was given Man of the Match after a stunning display against the best defence in the league – which shows that he still is a great player.
Solskjær has stuck with the Frenchman throughout his poor form and displayed management which will certainly keep Martial on side. This might suggest that the Norwegian gives his striker another season to prove he can get back to the levels he found in 2019/20.
Then if he doesn’t, it’ll be likely the the former Molde FK manager will do everything in his power to try and get a certain ex-Molde striker to Old Trafford.