Anthony Martial walking off

Old Trafford ovation for birthday boy Martial

Wednesday 05 December 2018 23:48

Anthony Martial received a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful on his 23rd birthday, after a bittersweet evening’s work that saw him net Manchester United’s equaliser in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal before leaving the pitch early to protect a tight muscle.

The predatory French forward swept home Ander Herrera’s quick-witted pull-back in the 30th minute, after Marcos Rojo’s free-kick had been palmed away by Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
It was the striker’s eighth goal of the season – a seventh in just nine Premier League matches – and it enabled United to restore parity after Shkodran Mustafi’s header had given Arsenal the lead.
However, Martial’s celebratory evening was marred in the second period when, after an epic burst of pressing, harrying and challenging an opponent, he fell to the turf clutching his hamstring.
It spelled the end of his involvement, but Martial could still take solace from an excellent night’s work in which he, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard were a constant irritant to the Arsenal backline.
And, as United’s no.11 trudged down the sideline towards the tunnel, Old Trafford – led by the Stretford End – chorused with his chant and awarded him the honour of a standing ovation.
Much of the talk approaching the match had focused on Arsenal’s two leading marksmen, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. But it was Martial who struck first among the trio of French-born forwards.
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And how typical that it was the man from Les Ulis – whose goals have kept United going during a difficult period – that was waiting to pounce.
Martial could even have doubled his tally when put through early in the second half by Lingard, but, after a clever chop-back to take the ball right to left, he looked to ever-so-slightly lose his balance on the slick, wet grass. 
Nevertheless, it was another moment that was symbolic of the interchangeable and direct forward play between United’s front three – two of whom (Martial, Lingard) were rewarded for their hard running with goals.
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Rashford subsequently came close to giving United the lead for the first time in the match when his fiery distant shot temporarily escaped the grip of Leno, but United never quite recaptured their earlier menace after Martial's exit, despite the spirited graft of substitutes Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku
While reflecting on a draw against one of the league’s most in-form sides – Unai Emery’s men are now unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions – the Reds will now wait to see if the player voted Man of the Match on Twitter will be fit to face Fulham on Saturday, although Mourinho has encouragingly suggested Martial's problem is "not serious."

Whenever he next plays, United fans will look forward to seeing him in action, as one of the most talented and deadly strikers in the game.

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