JOE BERNSTEIN: Manchester United need an elite striker to challenge for Premier League title… but Anthony Martial showed he’s ready for the fight with encouraging display in Everton win
- Anthony Martial’s return to Manchester United was key in 3-1 Everton victory
- His willingness to run made him the focal point in United’s potent attack
- Martial missed three Premier League games for a soft red card vs Tottenham
- United certainly looked a better-balanced team with striker Martial in the line-up
Though Bruno Fernandes grabbed the headlines at Goodison Park, the return of Anthony Martial up front was also key to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United looking a more potent attacking force, particularly in the first half.
Martial was straight back into the starting line-up after missing three Premier League games for a soft red card collected against Spurs.
Given that United had failed to score against Chelsea and Arsenal while the Frenchman netted in consecutive Champions League games, it was a no-brainer he was in at centre-forward, flanked by Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes.
Bruno Fernandes grabbed the headlines but the return of Anthony Martial up front was key
His willingness to run and be a focal point for United’s attack was important in creating space
There was an amusing early sign that Martial had been away from domestic action for three weeks.
He keenly sprinted straight into the opposition half at kick-off only to quickly return once he realised he had to join the other 21 players on the pitch in taking the knee.
Understandably, there were signs of rustiness in his play as well. His first touch from a Fernandes pass bounced off his heel. When he got a first sight of goal after 15 minutes, the shot was dragged wide rather than testing Jordan Pickford.
But while the technique was slightly off, the willingness to run and be a focal point for United’s attack was important in creating space for team-mates.
Bernard put Everton ahead but United hit back before half-time with a Fernandes double.
Martial was straight back into starting line-up after missing three games for a soft red card
Martial’s final pass didn’t always find its intended target and his shooting boots need some fine-tuning, but his link up play was good and there were signs the touch is already coming back.
He also showed bravery in getting over a heft aerial challenge by Michael Keane which saw the United player caught in the face and on the shin in a double-whammy.
United certainly looked a better-balanced team with Martial in the line-up, some comfort for Solskjaer who can temporarily forget speculation about his future and plan for a home game against West Brom immediately following the international break.
He will expect the goals will follow for Martial. He already has 73 in the five years he’s been at Old Trafford, befitting his new status as a striker rather than winger where he started.
United certainly looked a better-balanced team with striker Martial in the line-up
Martial tired in the second half just like United in general as Everton pushed for an equaliser. It was no surprise when he was withdrawn 10 minutes from time for Edinson Cavani. His contribution had been important for the team if not sensational.
United fans crave a world-class No9 like Harry Kane or Robert Lewandowski and it’s a shame new signing Edinson Cavani isn’t five years younger or Mason Greenwood five years older.
Cavani showed he can still finish by adding an injury-time third – though Solskjaer will have been just as pleased by the resolute nature of his team’s performance spearheaded by Martial.
Realistically, they probably do need a new high-class centre-forward if they are going to challenge for the Premier League.
Right now however, Martial is the best option Solskjaer has. And there were improvements for United in the final third compared to the lethargy against Arsenal and Chelsea.
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