The Frenchman has scored just two goals in 10 matches in all competitions this season and is yet to net in the Premier League.
‘United have paid for their missed chances,’ Paul Scholes told BT Sport. ‘Martial’s chances were the ones, anything on target is a goal. He is struggling for goals at the minute. Martial will know, he doesn’t need telling, he should score.’
Anthony Martial reacts after missing a big chance to give Man United the lead against PSG
That United legend Scholes was there to dissect Martial’s miss was fitting as he has been his biggest critic. Though, perhaps aware of that, he held back on going in too hard on the 24-year-old, who was playing on the left of a front three against PSG.
Martial has, however, been United’s main centre forward since the start of last season, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took a huge gamble in selling Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and not replacing him; instead putting all of his eggs in Martial’s basket.
Scholes thinks that Martial is not a natural centre forward, saying before Edinson Cavani’s arrival at the start of the season: ‘The problem with United’s forwards is that none of them is an actual centre-forward. Martial almost conned us into thinking he was one at the end of last season because he scored so many goals and was quite good. He’s started this season quite poorly again, which makes you think he isn’t.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gambled by not replacing Romelu Lukaku after selling him for £73m
The stats suggest that Martial is not good enough to be the main striker at a club with ambitions to win the title or the Champions League. Despite a late season run of form taking his Premier League tally to 17 for 2019-20, Martial’s minutes-per-goal ratio since the start of last season is worse than any other striker at a Big Six club, with the exception of Roberto Firmino – who has the huge caveat of being the foil for Liverpool’s prolific wingers Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. Also ahead of Martial’s modest 175 minutes-per-goal ratio are Danny Ings, Jamie Vardy, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Tammy Abraham and Lukaku.
The vast majority of Lukaku’s 45 club goals since leaving United have come in Serie A and the Europa League, though his stats will still make for painful reading in comparison to Martial’s for Solskjaer. His shot conversion percentage of 26 is well clear of Martial’s 19.8 and is only bettered by Vardy from the Premier League’s current crop.
|Sergio Aguero||Man City||36||2281||24||22.6||95|
|Romelu Lukaku||Inter Milan||63||5086||45||26||113|
|Jamie Vardy||Leicester City||51||4266||33||27.1||129|
|Anthony Martial||Man United||58||4371||25||19.8||175|
Romelu Lukaku (left) has scored 45 goals for Inter Milan since leaving Manchester United
Lukaku’s form was indifferent in his final season at United – Solskjaer’s first – though if the Norwegian loses his job, selling the Belgian and not replacing him has to go down as a major factor.
At 24, Martial should still have his best years ahead of him, though Scholes’ point is that he would be best used off the left or as a back-up to a main striker at this stage. The signing of Edinson Cavani on a £210,000-a-week free transfer has eased the burden on Martial, certainly more than the £150,000-a-week year long loan deal for Odion Ighalo has done. But United fans will be wondering, if the club are willing to spend £18.7million a year on wages for veteran stop-gaps, there must be a younger alternative out there? Ironically, that figure is slightly more than the £18m Borussia Dortmund paid RB Salzburg to sign Erling Haaland in January.
Solskjaer is a big fan of his fellow Norwegian having giving him his professional debut at Molde. United rivalled Dortmund for the signature though were hesitant to give his agent Mino Raiola the control over sell-on clauses he wanted and pulled out of a deal. However, Haaland’s strong Leeds United connections through his father Alf-Inge mean he insists he was always choosing Dortmund.
Solskjaer is a big fan of Erling Haaland having give him his professional debut for Molde
Haaland is no doubt the standout young striker in Europe at the moment, with a scour of the top scorer tables of the big leagues showing only established talent at top clubs. The top three scorers in Serie A, ironically, are all ex-United players – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lukaku.
That leads us back to where we started, the Premier League. Given current clubs and ages, the only viable alternative from our table above is a player United have shown tentative interest in already this year – Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The Everton striker has scored 21 goals in 33 matches since Carlo Ancelotti took over a year ago and aged 23 and English is the profile Solskjaer and United are looking for. They will be keeping a close eye to see if he can retain his form for the course of the season – and if Martial continues to struggle to find his.
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the most viable option for a new signing United