Anthony Martial another case of arrested development at Manchester United

Frenchman could feature against Brentford on Wednesday but appears on his way out

Anthony Martial has fallen down the pecking order at Manchester United. Reuters
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After a public row on Saturday, Ralf Rangnick and Anthony Martial had private talks on Sunday to clear the air. Fitness will dictate if the Frenchman is in contention to make a belated first appearance of the German’s reign at Brentford on Wednesday but if peace has broken out, the truce may be temporary. Martial and Manchester United, a relationship that promised so much, look destined for a break-up.

The interim manager said the forward “didn’t want” to be part of the squad for Saturday’s draw at Aston Villa when he only named eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers. Martial had responded on social media by denying that. “I will never refuse to play a match for Man United,” he wrote.

Rangnick then communicated behind closed doors, explaining: “I had a personal conversation with him on Sunday about what happened and how I saw the whole situation and the matter is now resolved.” Martial did not train on Sunday or Monday. Rangnick is yet to select his side to face Brentford but even if Martial is available, he will probably only been on the bench.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford, who both missed the Villa game, are expected back by Rangnick. Both are ahead of Martial in the queue. Perhaps Anthony Elanga is, too, after Saturday’s surprise selection impressed.

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The young winger is 19, just as Martial was when he made a startling debut for United, scoring a goal 21 minutes after his introduction against Liverpool. The goal, with his pace, ability to glide in from the left wing and curl shots prompted comparisons to another former Monaco prodigy, Thierry Henry. He was the world’s most expensive teenager and his initial £36 million move would have made the Ligue Un club a further £6 million if Martial won the Ballon d’Or. Suffice to say Monaco are unlikely to ever receive that payment.

Yet that is six-and-a-half years ago. At 25, Martial no longer offers the potential of a brighter future. Instead, he looks another case of arrested development at United.

His 17-goal debut campaign under Louis van Gaal remains one of his two best. The other, in 2019-20, came when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer installed him as the first-choice striker, he scored 23 times and was voted United’s player of the year by his team-mates. The subsequent decline in his fortunes, with only seven goals in 43 games since then, a needless red card in last season’s 6-1 thrashing by Tottenham and no league start in more than three months, is ignominious.

Martial has felt a victim of United’s ever-shifting thinking, losing his No9 shirt to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, often being demoted to the bench under Jose Mourinho, who wanted to sell him, being revived by Solskjaer but being among those to suffer when the summer arrivals of Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho left them overloaded with forwards and with the Portuguese a guaranteed starter as the striker.

His last goal was against Everton in October, his last appearance a two-minute cameo in Michael Carrick’s valedictory win over Arsenal. Perhaps United and Martial each believe the other gave up on them. The forward’s agent Philippe Lamboley voiced his desire to leave a week into Rangnick’s reign; he did not wait for the interim manager to make an impression.

Sevilla have had a loan bid rejected. They were not even offering to cover all of his wages. In itself, it is a sign of how his star has fallen, that a player tipped to be one of the world’s best could be borrowed. But now Martial is in limbo, with 12 days left to get a winter move, the wunderkind who made a dramatic entrance eyeing the exit.

Updated: January 18, 2022, 2:39 PM