Anthony Martial.

Could the stage be set for Martial again?

Thursday 25 August 2022 07:00

It is often funny how history repeats itself.

Anthony Martial's Manchester United career started with a home game against Liverpool. In a never-to-be-forgotten moment, he waltzed through the Merseysiders' defence to score a dramatic third goal that eased the pressure created by Christian Benteke's strike and sealed three points for Louis van Gaal's men.

What an introduction it was as a substitute, back in 2015, but his next Premier League outing, and first start in the competition, also exceeded expectations. The Frenchman scored twice at Southampton in a 3-2 victory, displaying more ice-cold composure in front of goal.

Southampton 2 United 3 Video

Southampton 2 United 3

20 September 2015: Martial followed up on his debut goal, while Mata finished off a fine team move at St Mary's...

So much has happened in the seven years since then. Every other outfield player involved in the team and on the bench for the Reds on that day at St Mary's is no longer with the club. Only long-serving keeper David De Gea remains.

It is fair to say Martial's future seemed unclear when he joined Sevilla on loan last term but, while it was van Gaal in charge when he made his start to life in Manchester, there is now another Dutchman at the helm in the shape of Erik ten Hag.

And Ten Hag appears determined to bring the best out of a forward with so much obvious ability, who just needs to kickstart his United career.

The boss bemoaned Martial's injury after an excellent pre-season and told club media after the win over Liverpool that the striker is capable of performing a crucial role for the side.

"With him [Martial], he wasn't available for 90 minutes after his injury but he gives, on the ball, a way out for the team. He can be a target, he knows the right positions and he has the skills to play through. We saw that with the second goal [which he assisted for Marcus Rashford]."

How will Casemiro fit in? Video

How will Casemiro fit in?

The Debate | We discuss United’s big-name signing, plus the morale-boosting win over Liverpool…

During this week's episode of The Debate, Daily Telegraph journalist James Ducker commented: "It'll be interesting to see how Martial comes back effectively. I think [Jadon] Sancho and Rashford like playing with him. I thought he did brilliantly for the [Rashford] goal.

"He can hold the ball up, has intelligence in the way he angles his runs and cuts the ball off to midfielders. He is strong, fast and a lovely finisher. He had a very good pre-season and I thought United missed him in the first couple of games. He came on and really delivered in that second half so it'll be interesting to see what Martial we get over the coming weeks and whether that can set the tone for the season.

"He's 26 now and at an age where he's got to deliver. I don't know if he will but his attributes are there and he's unquestionably a very talented footballer. He might find this manager suits him."

A fit-again Martial provides options in attack, along with Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo, and United are approaching the weekend encounter in a positive frame of mind.

He may not have scored against Liverpool but Martial's set-up for Rashford, and all-round performance, suggested he is ready to replicate his Tour 2022 form in the Premier League. As fate would have it, if 2022/23 does mark the resurgence of the centre-forward that we all hope it will, a follow-up trip to Southampton may present an opportunity to reproduce the predatory form he displayed at the beginning of his Reds career.

This feels like the perfect moment for that to happen.