The time has come for the mercurial Frenchman to produce his best on a consistent basis for the Red Devils…
For large parts in the first leg of Manchester United‘s Europa League Round of 32 tie against Club Brugge, the Red Devils huffed and puffed unable to force their way through the defences of the Belgian outfit.
However, a fine goal from Anthony Martial, against the run of play, gave them an equaliser that meant they came from Belgium with the advantage of having scored an away goal despite the tie finishing 1-1.
It has been a similar story domestically for United as well, with no rhythm or fluency while going forward. This has been pronounced ever since Marcus Rashford was ruled out for the season.
The spotlight has fallen on Martial, naturally, as the only other established forward in the team. They did sign Odion Ighalo as cover during deadline day but he is expected to be a back-up to Martial.
The Frenchman, who struggles with consistency despite possessing obvious talent, failed to do justice to the role of carrying Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side initially which was apparent in the 2-0 loss to Burnley and the goalless draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers three weeks or so ago.
But post the winter break, Martial has stepped up in the number nine role, scoring in all three of United’s matches ever since.
A fine centre-forward’s header gave United the lead against Chelsea in what was a significant win (2-0) while he netted the equaliser against Club Brugge in the next game. Last Sunday, he produced a touch of brilliance to double United’s lead against Watford in the Premier League, a game they eventually won 3-0.
The 24-year-old has scored thrice in United’s last four Europa League games as well. He will be the key man as United look to hold off Brugge at home and seal progress to the Round of 16.
Solskjaer, who has been constantly challenging Martial to live up to his talent, has been singing his praises.
“I am delighted with the week Anthony has had,” said Solskjaer. “He has got his critics and I am one of his biggest, probably. I keep demanding different stuff from him. His skill is just mind-blowing, sometimes the skills he shows. But I want more from him and I’ll keep on at him.”
The fans will be demanding more from him too as United’s season enters a decisive phase.