Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal thinks there is more to come from Anthony Martial, as a dazzling display from the young Frenchman helped the Red Devils to an emphatic win in the Premier League on Tuesday.
The 3-0 triumph against Stoke City was much needed for the Red Devils, who have been struggling to find top gear this season, with goals coming from Jesse Lingard, Martial and skipper Wayne Rooney. Afterwards, Van Gaal insisted he’s both delighted and surprised at how Martial has adapted to life in England.
“It is very much surprising,” the Dutchman said, per Jack Gaughan of the Daily Mail. “You come from the French league, come to the Premier League and you do this at 20 then you have a lot of potential to give but then I am the manager not any more at that time when he is at his best.”
Martial has certainly been a bright spot in what has been an otherwise glum campaign for the Red Devils.
Many questions were asked when the Red Devils parted with a massive £36 million to sign the youngster in the summer transfer transfer window despite being a relative unknown to many in England. But it’s clear from the early stages of his career at Old Trafford that Martial is on course to be one of the finest players in the Premier League.
As Bleacher Report’s Rob Blanchette noted, the France international's goal was a joyous moment:
There was such joy at Martial’s strike. We knew it was in as soon as he hit it & were celebrating before it hit the net. A rare moment #MUFC— Rob B. (@_Rob_B) February 3, 2016
Although there have been plenty of individual instances of magic to savour from the former Monaco man, the forward confirmed he gets just as much joy from some of his unselfish play.
“I have always been considered as an altruistic person—this is something that has been said to me quite a lot,” he told MUTV after the win against Stoke, per Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star. “So both giving a decisive pass or scoring a goal means as much to me. In the end, the most important thing is to win as a team.”
Another positive for the Red Devis recently has been the return to form of Rooney, who began the campaign looking like a shadow of the player he once was. However, as we can see here courtesy of OptaJoe, the United skipper has really come to the fore for his side in recent weeks:
6 - Wayne Rooney has scored (4) or assisted (2) six PL goals in five games in 2016. Back.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 2, 2016
There were plenty of calls to drop the striker earlier in the term because of his poor performances, but it’s clear Van Gaal feels vindicated in the way he’s managed the forward.
“I hope for him and that is good for me, because when he scores we win,” said the United boss of the England international, per Gaughan. “Everybody has forgotten he was substitute against Stoke away. Everybody is the same with me. You have to prove it to me in every training session. When he plays like this I cannot say to him ‘go to the bench.’”
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What will be most encouraging for United fans is the manner in which Martial and Rooney linked up on the night against Stoke. There have been signs of an understanding developing between the two in 2016 and with the Old Trafford crowd demanding a more vibrant brand of football, that can only be a positive.
Martial no longer looks like the gamble many claimed he was last summer. The Frenchman is assured, adaptable and has a composed head in front of goal.
When Van Gaal does eventually depart the club, the man next in line at Old Trafford will be excited by the prospect of working with one of the best young forwards in the game.