Anthony Martial was slammed as not being a proper No 9 but against both Club Brugge and Chelsea he provided evidence that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s faith in him as a striker isn’t misplaced
Maybe it was the presence of Louis van Gaal, the manager who signed him, in the Jan Breydelstadion that inspired Anthony Martial.
Or maybe it was coming up against a Brugge defence short of Premier League class.
Either way, the 24-year-old French forward finally looked the player that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown so much faith in. So much faith in fact he sold Romelu Lukaku for £75 million and asked Martial to fill his shoes as a No 9 instead of signing a replacement.
Anthony Martial’s terrific goal against Club Brugge showed his undoubted ability as a No 9
Martial has been criticised for not being a proper striker but he has the tools to be a success
The 24-year-old has justified the faith shown in him by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Martial has been bickered at all season for having a suspect first touch, not holding the ball up with his back to goal and letting his head drop when things went against United.
But a rainy, cold Thursday Europa League night was a time for him to show everyone what he is good at.
Primary among those was the pace and finish to score a precious United equaliser after they’d made a dodgy start and trailed 1-0.
Martial now has 14 goals for the season – just three short of his highest ever career tally
Martial showed strength too, holding off Brendan Mechele before accelerating away to slip a low shot past Simon Mignolet, once of Liverpool.
It was Martial’s 14th goal of the season – just three short of his best ever tally. It was his second goal in a row, and they’ve both been important – a great header to break the deadlock at Chelsea and a goal that should see United progress in Europe.
The confidence was visible. Martial also hit the post. He went looking for the ball.
The arrival of Odion Ighalo enabled Solskjaer to rest Martial for the last 15 minutes of the game
Even the arrival of Odion Ighalo is in his favour.
Solskjaer was able to give Martial some minutes rest at the end. He should be fresh for Watford on Sunday.
Is Martial a £75million centre-forward yet. Is he the finished article? No and no.
But there is growing evidence Solskaer’s belief he can be a Manchester United striker is not misplaced.