Manchester United match-going fans would have been excused if they were a little rusty when serenading Anthony Martial after his strike against Everton before the international break.
“Tony Martial, he came from France,” the Old Trafford crowd echoed as the Frenchman wheeled away in celebration at his deflected effort beyond Jordan Pickford. “The English press said he had no chance, 50 million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again…”
The chant had genuine weight to it following his transfer from AS Monaco, but six years later Martial still remains somewhat of an enigma and a figure who divides a good chunk of United supporters.
His deflected effort in the draw with Everton was just Martial’s third goal in his last 25 matches — even that is a rather complimentary figure given two of those came in the 9-0 thumping of 10-man Southampton earlier in the year.
Now at the age of 25 he is far beyond being given the sympathy of youthful naivety and is instead expected to be delivering top-level performances on a weekly basis, something he has rarely done during his lengthy spell in Manchester.
Part of the issue is that Martial has always looked better playing from the left, the same wing where he terrorised Martin Skrtel and scored an iconic debut goal in victory over Liverpool. Over the years he has played all across the front three and managed to find the net, though his best football has often been part of a fluid forward line, in particular the one with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood after Project Restart in summer 2020.
Martial has also had to deal with falling down the pecking order at Old Trafford, so much so he is now only one of six different options available for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to fulfil the left wing role.
Rashford’s return from injury should see him awarded playing time on the wing, while Paul Pogba and summer signing Jadon Sancho both also favour the inverted attacking role. Jesse Lingard is also revitalised competition for the spot while teenage star Anthony Elanga is another attacker who loves to cut inside onto his stronger foot in attack.
Despite the fierce competition, it is credit to Martial he has now outstayed both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at United and has also remained at the club despite the influx of attacking talent that has come and gone around him.
Martial might remain a divisive figure, but he is still quite clearly rated by Solskjaer and is a player who the former striker seems to sympathise with a lot given his own dry-spells at the club.
His selection against Everton last time out was one of huge controversy yet it was credit to the charismatic Frenchman that he silenced his critics again and took the unexpected opportunity that came his way.
Rashford’s potential return this weekend will only add to the left wing problem, which remains unsolved, but after a goal in his last match it is surely only right to reward Martial after his crucial contribution.
Contrary to the iconic chant, Martial has been given a chance and during it he did everything he could to ensure he deserves another one.
Tony Martial scored again.