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Anthony Martial is averaging a goal or assist every 74.92 minutes in the Premier League and Champions League this season.
To give that some context, Lionel Messi is averaging a goal or assist every 80.14 minutes in La Liga and the Champions League. Robert Lewandowski, in the Bundesliga and Champions League, averages a goal or assist every 102.5 minutes.
What Martial has done in 2017/18 is stunning. Whether in a cameo role or a starter, whether from the left flank or playing alongside Romelu Lukaku, the Frenchman is performing at a level we all expected to see from him after his dazzling year under Louis van Gaal the season before last.
The 3-5-2 that Mourinho has opted for lately is perfect for Martial.
Leading the line for Mourinho – who favours his centre-forward as the focal point of attack – is too much for the former Monaco man at this juncture. Playing from the left has worked well, but it depends on overlapping runs from the full-back to allow Martial to drift into his danger zone: the inside left channel.
His skillset does not lend itself to being Mourinho’s lone striker. It does, however, fit perfectly for a supporting role in the front line.
Running off Lukaku, Martial is a threat in behind, and can drop between the lines to link with the midfield. Paul Pogba feeding Martial has already proven to be a lethal combination.
Martial is arguably United’s best finisher, as illustrated in his ice-cold finish against Watford last week. The opening of his body to put it past the ‘keeper’s left-side could quickly become a trademark.
In Lukaku’s drought, the Frenchman has not only stepped up, he has stolen the spotlight for himself. With Jesse Lingard doing much of the defensive work, Martial has been allowed to play right up with the Belgian.
He is effective as a winger, but, when allowed to run at centre-backs, Martial is a fearsome prospect for any opponent. If Manchester United are to get the very best out of him, much of his future will be as a central striker.
And, before long, we could be talking about him as a Player of the Year candidate.
Last season is proving to be no more than a blip. We might never know if there were problems between Martial and Mourinho, but right now it doesn’t matter. His manager has unleashed the best of him.
Talk of Ivan Perisic, Gareth Bale and Antoine Griezmann has seen some forget the immense talent on Manchester United’s books. Marcus Rashford naturally gets British attention, Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrived with great hope and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be the star of any show.
As we have seen in the early wintery months, though, Anthony Martial could exceed them all. He is taking pressure off his team-mates, and is on his way to becoming one of the best players in the world.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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