Anthony Martial’s Manchester United teammates have said the French forward is about to live up to the potential that convinced Louis van Gaal to sign him from Monaco last year.
The transfer could reportedly cost United as much as £61.5 million (Dh322.6m), should Martial, 20, fulfil various bonus clauses written into his contract.
After a strong start to his Old Trafford career, Martial suffered a midseason dip in form, but his display in Friday’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round victory at Championship side Derby County recalled his better moments from earlier in the campaign.
Now, Martial and United are desperate to carry that form into a testing home Premier League fixture against Stoke City on Tuesday as they look to ease the pressure that has been steadily mounting on Van Gaal in the new year.
“He can be a good player, but he must improve,” teammate Marouane Fellaini said.
“Anthony has a lot of quality. He is quick, a good dribbler and always dangerous. He is young and has to keep going, learn every day and he will be a good player.
“He’s settled in well, and enjoys the training and loves the Premier League, and loves playing games.
“So, first of all, this is good for him, but also the club. He must train hard and keep going as next season will be more difficult because the Premier League will know him. But he has the quality to be a success.
“We did well against Derby. We created a lot of chances and that is good for the confidence.
“The passing was quick and we played forward, so I think we will keep going like that.”
Fellaini’s midfield colleague Michael Carrick has also been impressed by Martial’s development and believes he was “unplayable” in the victory at Derby.
“He has shown his quality from day one, since his debut,” said Carrick, recalling Martial’s memorable solo goal in September’s 3-1 home win over arch rivals Liverpool.
“We realise how good he is, but we can’t expect everything all the time. However, when he’s playing like that as he did against Derby, he’s pretty much unplayable, so it’s nice to have him.”
United’s injury problems continue in the full-back positions for the visit of Stoke, with Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw all long-term absentees with no set return dates.
Stoke know they can move to within a single point of fifth-place United if they win and can consider themselves part of the most open race for the European qualification slots in decades.
But they have injury problems of their own, with defender Marc Wilson suffering a knee injury that could keep him out for three months in Saturday’s 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Crystal Palace.
“We’re going to have a good go if we can, but a lot of clubs will be in there — Palace themselves, West Ham, plus the usual suspects,” manager Mark Hughes said.
“It’s a big game on Tuesday, obviously. We can affect them and help ourselves so we’ll try to do that.
“I think everyone’s interest and focus on the league is as high as it’s ever been just because of the different teams that are getting involved.
“Obviously the standout team is Leicester by virtue of what they are doing, but there are a lot of other teams around them, and we’d like to include ourselves in that, who are doing OK and shaking things up a bit.”
Hughes made eight changes for the Palace game following the Potters’ penalty shoot-out exit at Liverpool on Tuesday, with the majority of those omitted set for recalls against United.
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