This has been an improving season for Manchester United, although not really successful one, considering it is the fourth straight year without a trophy brought to Old Trafford. But while the whole team improved, it is hard to make such case for Anthony Martial. The French striker has not had an easy campaign which was further made worse by an injury which kept him off the pitch for the big part of the latter stages of the season.
Anthony Martial has made 36 appearances for Man United across all competitions, scoring seven goals and adding nine assists. He has managed to play 2422 minutes this season, which is not a lot when you see the number of his appearances. In Premier League, there were just four goals and six assists across 2 games, while he added two goals and two assists in five Champions League games. He also had a goal and an assists in two League Cup matches, while he did not get any goals or assists in four FA Cup and three Europa League matches. It is striking that Martial’s 10 goal contributions in the Premier League came in just five different matches – against Tottenham, Sheffield United, Leeds, Aston Villa and Southampton in that 9-0 thrashing. And that was it. That shows just how incosistent Martial had been this season, when he was available.
Martial’s attacking numbers do not look good. His 0.36 non-penalty expected goals of 0.36 per 90 is equal to the average of goals he was actually scoring, but that was enough only to put him in the top of half the Premier League forwards. Looking at Martial as a winger rather than a centre-forward paints just a slightly better picture, as his pass completion, touches in the opposition penalty area and progressive passes received put him all in and around the top 90 per cent of players in his position. But the numbers have a tough way of explaining Martial’s poor movement off the ball, when he struggles to time his runs and be a danger without the ball. That is why defenders often did not have the problem defending against him and it is one thing the Frenchman should certainly look at improving if he is to be a constant threat.
Injuries And Suspensions
In this regard, Martial has been really unlucky. After earning the penalty against Spurs, he got a harsh straight red card which had kept him out of contention for the games against Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal, while United ended the game against Tottenham with six goals in the back of their net. Due to illness he missed the Southampton game as well, before March 2021 came around. It was then that he had a hip injury that soon also became a ruptured knee ligament injury and we had not seen him since. His final game this season came in the 1-1 draw against Milan midway through March and that was it, as Martial injured himself on international duty with France.1
It is hard making conclusions for Martial after such a problematic injury, but it is fair to say this was a poor season for him until that moment. He was not scoring often and his chance creation was not making it worthwhile for him to keep constantly playing. Man United had to find different solutions without him in the team, but Martial’s performances next season will need to be of a much higher level.