Manchester United’s “Little Old Man” Martial calms panic

By on September 20, 2015

Nobody would have blamed Anthony Martial if he hadn’t scored in his first three games in the red of Manchester United. Not the teenager with less than two years of professional football at Monaco under his belt; the new kid adapting to a new country with a daunting price tag of $55 million to live up to. He doesn’t even know any English yet.

“He cannot speak English, I speak French to him,” said United manager Louis van Gaal, per the Daily Mail. “I need help with that with Fellaini and Schneiderlin. It’s very difficult. He’s willing to learn English. It’s a matter of time, I think. When he speaks English good enough he shall answer the questions. But now, first he has to learn English and adapt to the English culture.”

Instead, if Martial had started slowly the critics would have pointed their fingers at Van Gaal and the club’s executives, the men audacious enough to place so much expectation on Martial. There was enough panic about the deal – made late in the transfer window just days after it became apparent that United wouldn’t sign marquis stars such as Neymar or Gareth Bale – to give critics the ammunition to question the move even after just a few early outings.

But Martial’s performances in his first games at United have been anything but panicky. Often compared to France legend Thierry Henry, none the least because they attended the same Parisian youth academy, Martial emulated the characteristics of the former Arsenal star as he scored on his United debut as a substitute against Liverpool.

Martial galloped down the left channel, a perfect example of the runs down the wings that United had previously lacked, then cut inside, jinxed between two defenders and opened his hips for a composed far post finish. Calm, cool-as-you-like, worthy of the superlatives.

The nineteen year old’s first start for United in a 2-1 loss to PSV Eindhoven was a match to forget, but Martial’s shortage of goals was the least of United’s problems.

Yet against Southampton at St. Mary’s today, Martial was back on form with a crucial brace in United’s 3-1 win. Thirty-four minutes in the ball rebounded to him just six yards out from goal but instead of thwacking the ball straight back on target, Martial had the presence of mind to turn with the ball and tuck it into the bottom corner.

In the second half, he capitalized on a poor Southampton back-pass and sent Maarten Stekelenberg the wrong way before side-footing the ball home. After celebrating, Martial had barely stepped inside United’s own half before spiriting off again. The forward had added a calm, collected presence to the under-performing United attack he entered when it really should have been the other way around.

Martial’s France youth international teammate Paul Pogba has a nickname for the forward: “Little Old Man.” Martial possesses the pace and exuberance of a nineteen-year-old, but the level head of, well, perhaps a player closer to Thierry Henry’s vintage.

Van Gaal praised his forward after the match, but also gave his star man some breathing room for when his form eventually cooled. As if Martial wasn’t cool enough already.

His former teammate, Jeremy Toulalan said of Martial, per Just-Football: “I’ve never seen him have a bad game since I have been at the club. He is very strong and very consistent. Even in training I have never seen him play badly.”

Homepage photo credit: By André Zahn, via Wikimedia Commons

About Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, founder of Football Every Day, lives and breaths football from the West Coast of the United States in California. Aside from founding Football Every Day in January of 2013, Alex has also launched his own journalism career and hopes to help others do the same with FBED. He covers the San Jose Earthquakes as a beat reporter for and his work has also been featured in the BBC's Match of the Day Magazine.