Manchester United take a punt on talented teenager Anthony Martial

Young former Monaco prospect already a composed finisher and is likely to improve


It is already evident Manchester United are in need of a striker to support Wayne Rooney and it looks as if they have found their man in the 19-year-old Anthony Martial, Monaco’s hugely talented France Under-21 international.

It is an interesting move, not least because of his age and the fee, which is considerable for a relatively untested teenager – somewhere between €48 million– €67 million depending on which source you believe.

The untested part may raise some eyebrows as it is clear that United need a goal source now, and for half the reported price could possibly pick up someone from the domestic market, who is highly likely to do a decent job and get eight to 10 goals a season. Or for a similar huge sum, if you are looking at Ligue 1 forwards, there is Alexandre Lacazette.

A product of Lyon’s youth system, as was Martial, though four years older, he is a senior French international and Ligue 1’s top scorer last season with 27 goals. Rated by Lyon at a minimum €50 million, he has already been linked to Manchester United as well as Arsenal and Chelsea over the past year and would have been more of the finished article and more of a guarantee of goals. It would be interesting to know whether United first tried to sign him and, if so, at what point they pulled out, given the fee they are paying for Martial.

One can only assume that what made them go for Martial, rather than testing Lyon to their limit for Lacazette, is down to potential. Arguably Martial is more of a naturally talented footballer and possibly a more complete forward than the out-and-out goalscorer Lacazette.

Rather than the safer option now, they are being more adventurous – paying more money for a diamond that could shine occasionally from day one but, with some more polishing, rate even higher than the Lyon man in a year or two.

Top clubs

Despite the price they are paying, Manchester United are still likely to see the signing as an investment opportunity. The tendency now at the top end of the transfer market is players are being bought a little like equities, where anticipated future performance is factored into the price.

United are assuming that while Martial might cost say €54 million today, in a couple of years his performances will be at a level that will drive up the value significantly.

Monaco also bought him as an investment; they paid €5 million, a price that was deemed excessive in France for a player who at the time of moving in 2013 had made only three appearances in Ligue 1. Two years later, thanks to the freakonomical ways of the international transfer market, the player’s value has increased tenfold.

Monaco, with the best scouting set-up in French football, had followed Martial who had been outstanding in French national youth teams. With their record of bringing through players in that age group they were confident he would continue his development and were clearly proved right very quickly.

Martial has most of the fundamentals required at the very highest level, movement, close control and pace are probably the most distinctive qualities of his game. He is elegant with great balance and for such a young player is a very composed finisher. At times, watching him execute goalscoring opportunities, it is almost as if he has played the move through in his mind in slow motion before he finishes, in the way that he keeps calm and does not panic.

Second striker

One current weakness in his game is his hold-up play and now he might just lack the strength and determination to play effectively with his back to goal in English football. Though capable of playing as a wide forward, it is likely Manchester United plan to play him in a central striker position, with Rooney off him in a more advanced attacking midfield role, or use the Frenchman as a rotation player if they prefer to keep Rooney as their lone front man.

As with any talented 19-year-old Martial has streaks of inconsistency and against physical, defensively tight opposition, as in Ligue 1, he has had issues imposing himself on defenders. Very dependent on room in which to roam, he is most effective playing on the break and it will be interesting to see how he can adapt his style to the Premier League – especially now that the less fancied teams seem to be improving tactically.

For all Martial’s immense talent, scouts and coaches in France previously feared that he lacked a bit of desire; the perception was that his talent had pulled him along. But since Christmas he seems to have matured. Particularly encouraging for United were his Champions League performances, especially in the knockout stages, where he really stood out. It may have been this development that convinced them to move now, get in first and get hold of him so they can shape Martial to their needs. Guardian Service

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