Anthony Martial.

A positive week of ruthless finishing for Martial

Friday 21 February 2020 10:00

With two ruthless finishes in as many matches, this has been a good week for Anthony Martial.

The Frenchman will probably admit that his overall performances against Chelsea and Club Brugge could have been better, yet he crucially delivered for the team when it mattered most. 

At Stamford Bridge on Monday, the no.9 made a slow start in what was a huge Premier League fixture. But then, almost out of nowhere, he burst ahead of his marker, rose high inside the penalty area and executed a glancing header from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross that flew into the top corner. 

It was an unerring finish and one that put United in front at a crucial time in the match, just moments before the half-time break in west London. Unquestionably, that singular moment of class inspired the Reds and led to an invaluable 2-0 victory over the Champions League-chasing Blues. 

Three nights later and Anthony was at it again, this time in the Europa League, again experiencing a quiet opening before suddenly bursting into life with a game-changing contribution of quality.
Watch Martial's superb header in the 2-0 win over Chelsea on Monday.
The technical header at Chelsea was something new, but this solo goal in Brugge was classic Martial. 

The 24-year-old latched onto an opponent's wayward throw-in, rapidly burst up the pitch, dribbled across the path of a marker, opened his body up and slid a cool right-footed finish into the bottom corner. It was worth a bonus point, given Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was notably between the sticks for Martial’s iconic debut strike against Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2015. 

Martial’s away goal to seal a 1-1 draw in Belgium could be crucial when the teams contest the second leg under the M16 floodlights next Thursday night, with a place in the last 16 on offer.
As Marcus Rashford is injured for at least two more months, with Mason Greenwood also out with illness and loan signing Odion Ighalo getting up to speed, Anthony is certain to start the majority of games and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is pleased by the way the Frenchman is becoming more clinical in front of goal. 

“I’m encouraged by his attitude this season,” says the boss. “He wants to do those things that are not natural for him but you’ve got to make him reset at no.9 again after playing wide for so many years. Anthony and Marcus have played wide for a few years until the last 12 months really.

"Anthony has got quality. He’s a very good finisher, he takes his chances really well, he has a good technique in his finishing, he’s good at receiving the ball and good at dropping off too, playing like a false nine at times as well. Sometimes I’d like him to be stronger physically but that will come.”
Take another look at Martial's solo goal in the 1-1 draw against Club Brugge.
For a long time, the manager has spoken about the need for his strikers to score more of the scrappy, instinctive goals that underpinned his own career as a reliable Old Trafford marksman.

“That is what Ole wants to see from him, just getting on the ball, playing on instincts, going for goal and not thinking twice about it,” explains respected journalist Paul Hirst of The Times. “For the goal, as soon as he saw the chance he just went for it - which is what a striker should do. 

“The only slight concern was when Martial decided to square a pass to [Juan] Mata later on and a more confident striker might have buried that with a shot himself, but he is slowly racking up the goals and United need him to do that, because without Marcus Rashford they are struggling. 

“If Martial can keep that up for the rest of the season then that will be very important for Ole.”
Ole praised Martial's finishing during our post-match interview in Belgium.

Indeed, the sight of Martial acting on his instincts, displaying a ruthless streak that every top striker needs, is clearly a positive sign for United and one that the player can look to build upon.

With 14 goals for the season across all competitions, the striker is almost certain to surpass his career-best tally of 17 for a single campaign and especially if he can maintain that influential run. 

Improvements can still be made, naturally, yet Sunday's match against Watford offers an opportunity to conclude an influential week of important goals.

The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United. This article first appeared in the Official App.

More analysis from Belgium: