Reports emanating from France earlier in the week suggested that Anthony Martial had turned down Manchester United’s offer of a new long-term contract, and that the former Monaco forward was seeking assurances over his playing time within Jose Mourinho’s squad.
Martial’s season has been a mixed bag, he started slowly and then picked up dramatically just before the winter period, yet then Alexis Sanchez arrived and the Frenchman has been moved to the bench to accommodate the Chilean international.
What’s bizarre is that Sanchez has actually struggled throughout his time with Manchester United, with the exception of a handful of fine performances. It seems unfair from the outside looking in that Martial would be the one to miss out.
There is no doubt that Jose Mourinho values Martial’s talent, he’s produced numerous fantastic moments under the Portuguese coach’s stewardship, but you’ve never truly got the feeling he has a place cemented in the first team.
At 22 years old, there’s no real reason to panic for Martial, he has time to develop and regain his starting place, yet there is a sense that he doesn’t apply himself well enough when things aren’t going in his direction, a trait that Mourinho is known to have no tolerance for within one of his teams.
Manchester United are in a difficult spot at this moment, they have a number of young talents who just aren’t quite ready to make the step up to being consistently world class, whilst they only have a small number of truly elite players.
Losing Martial would be a disaster for the club in the long-term, when you look at his natural talent it’s difficult not to rate him as one of, if not the best young player in the world.
If he was a regular in the Manchester City team which has stunned us all over the course of the season, you’d imagine he’d be in the running for Player of the Year, he certainly wouldn’t have missed the three clear chances Raheem Sterling did in Saturday’s Manchester derby.
His current deal runs until June 2019, but there is a club option to extend that by one year. As a result, this summer will be the club’s last chance to recoup much of what they paid for him if he’s intent on not renewing.
Mourinho has a history in his second spell in England with letting young, talented players leave his club because they aren’t quite ready to produce consistently.
Whilst the Portuguese coach will maintain Chelsea were in total control of decisions within the market, it’s obvious he left them with little choice but to cash in on the assets they had. Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah are the three high profile players which immediately come to mind.
It’s a particular sore point at Stamford Bridge that the trio have ended up being key players at three of their fiercest rivals, all clubs likely to finish above them this season, whilst Jose Mourinho didn’t last a full three seasons at the club in his second spell.
As much faith Ed Woodward has in Mourinho at this moment, he can’t allow this to cloud his judgement. If United were to sell Martial in the summer, it’s unlikely Real Madrid or Barcelona would be interested, furthermore they wouldn’t do business with another Premier League club.
However, Juventus would certainly be interested in bolstering their attacking actions, especially with Douglas Costa’s poor decision making a concern in Turin. Should Martial leave for Italy, then it’s almost certain that he’ll improve quickly and become a star there, just like Paul Pogba did.
Following that, there is every chance he’ll eventually end up back in the Premier League where he could really hurt Manchester United.
Those behind the scenes at Old Trafford are aware of the talent they have at their disposal in the French international, there is a significant willingness to get a contract extension signed, the issue at this point is just how trusted the forward feels moving forward.
Sanchez has just started to find his feet in the United team, he was sensational in the second half of the Manchester derby victory, however when you look at both Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, the pair should be rotation options for Martial next season, it may well be worth trying to fit the former Monaco star in on the right, rather than the left.
Manchester United are in a position where financially it wouldn’t kill them to lose Anthony Martial, they would probably have the funds to sign a player of a similar style in a couple of seasons when Sanchez begins to slow down, however that’s not the point.
The club are on a journey of trying to recapture the Premier League title for the first time without Sir Alex Ferguson, and the constant changing of the playing squad has been that task even more difficult.
Losing Martial would damage the team in the present and the future, a football club can’t solely plan for the now, especially when they have somebody with the potential that the French international does.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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