Anthony Martial took the Premier League by storm yesterday after his stunning solo goal ensured victory for Manchester United against Liverpool at Old Trafford. A 3-1 result means United are now five points adrift of rivals City, and although he only came on as a second half substitute, 19-year-old Martial enjoyed a moment that he will never forget.
He has been the subject of conversation since September 1st, when Manchester United broke the bank to make the Frenchman the most expensive teenager in football history. A staggering starting price of £36 million that could well rise to an even more astonishing £58 million, there was certainly pressure on the young man to hit the ground running, even if his new manager Louis Van Gaal insisted that there wasn’t.
At only 19, I don’t think anybody expected the youngster to make an immediate impact. It would surely take time for him to settle in England and adapt to the new surroundings and expectations at his new club. At such a young age, it would surely take him at least a couple of months to fully adjust to the physical demands and high intensity of the Barclays Premier League. How wrong could we be? Martial made quite an introduction.
Louis Van Gaal opted not to start his deadline day signing against Liverpool on Saturday evening, even after club captain Wayne Rooney was ruled out through injury. Instead, the Dutchman decided to start Marouane Fellaini up front on his own, leaving Martial on the bench. After a dull first half, United took the lead through a superbly worked set-piece, converted in the end by Daley Blind. A perfectly weighted pass by Juan Mata was finished fantastically by the Dutchman, curling the ball high into the top corner of the net and far out of reach of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. It was 2-0 in the 70th minute when Ander Herrera converted a penalty after being brought down in the area by youngster Joe Gomez. With the game seemingly out of sight, Christian Benteke scored a wonderful overhead kick for the visitors in the 84th minute to give his side a glimmer of hope and a chance to rescue at least a point. However, just two minutes later, the most expensive teenager in world football took centre stage at the Theatre of Dreams.
With United under real pressure for the first time in the match, Martial delivered a moment of pure brilliance. Latching onto a ball from Ashley Young, the youngster weaved majestically through the Liverpool defence, past both Clyne and Skrtel, before slotting the ball low into the bottom corner of the goal to send the Old Trafford crowd wild.
The hype surrounding the youngster these past couple of weeks hasn’t seemed to faze him at all. A hefty price tag and a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world is enough to dramatically affect anyone’s mind, let alone a 19-year-old forward who has been branded the new Thierry Henry and the next star of his generation. Martial’s debut strike yesterday certainly drew comparisons with the Arsenal great, and I am sure that the former Gunner would have been proud to have scored that goal himself. It is very early days of course, but if Saturday is anything to go by, then Manchester United fans have potentially found themselves their next golden boy. At 19 years of age, scoring on your Manchester United debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford, in front of more than 75,000 people, really is what dreams are made of. It doesn’t get much better than that.