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Anthony Martial has reached a crossroads in his Manchester United career after a difficult second season... but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic gone year three can be his time to shine

  • Anthony Martial endured a difficult second season in a Manchester United shirt
  • Martial struggled for form under Jose Mourinho and was in and out of the team
  • Jose Mourinho was often critical of the young French forward during the season
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic's departure could create an opening for Martial to shine

There was a degree of confusion at where Jose Mourinho's treatment of Anthony Martial was coming from last season.

Was the consistent criticism plain rebuking or an attempt at tough love? Mourinho's attitude towards his young Frenchman over the next few weeks and months could provide an answer to that question but, either way, the forward's second campaign in England was not hugely successful.

Martial was in and out of Manchester United's team, his manager demanding more effort and his representative subsequently maddened at the public displays of disaffection.

Anthony Martial endured a tough opening season under Jose Mourinho's management

Anthony Martial endured a tough opening season under Jose Mourinho's management

Year two at Old Trafford saw Martial receive regular criticism and was in and out of the team

Year two at Old Trafford saw Martial receive regular criticism and was in and out of the team

Martial found the net in the Red Devils' friendly victory over Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday

Martial found the net in the Red Devils' friendly victory over Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday

United saw flashes of his rip-roaring running but nothing quite as consistent as that first blistering term under Louis van Gaal, which came after he was dubbed a waste of money before kicking a ball.

Martial was not as direct, checking himself before heading off on runs which invariably terrify full backs. He turned inside too often, perhaps wary of making mistakes. He was not as sure of himself.

Having worked under Mourinho for 12 months, it is now when we will see if this is to be a long-term relationship. The second year, with the occasional big hit simply not supplemented by steady tracks alongside it, can be largely discarded in much the same way as his first – raw energy producing an album full of adrenaline.

Now is when the real Martial should shine through. The figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the ego he comes with, has gone. Responsibility will be shared.

Martial appeared to enjoy his football more while playing under Dutch boss Louis van Gaal

Martial appeared to enjoy his football more while playing under Dutch boss Louis van Gaal

Martial scored four Premier League goals in his second season compared to 11 the year before

Martial scored four Premier League goals in his second season compared to 11 the year before

MARTIAL IN 2015-16

Games: 51

Starts: 47

Goals: 17

Assists: 8

Manchester United only

MARTIAL IN 2016-17

Games: 42

Starts: 28

Goals: 8

Assists: 8

Manchester United only

For the younger players and Anthony, you d expect them to score more goals and not put all the pressure on Romelu Lukaku for the first season', Mikael Silvestre said this week.

'Marcus (Rashford) has to score more, Anthony too, and all these players will benefit from the work of the team, but it wasn t consistent last season.

Anthony has reached the level of Manchester United and the French national team, so I think he will answer the critics and improve his game to perform at least at the same level as the first season.

'When you reach that level, when you then have a difficult time, you bounce back because you are a competitor.

A few problems struck Martial at once. His personal life played out publicly after an acrimonious split from the mother of his child. Then only 20, it clearly affected him.

Martial can terrify defenders when running at them but seemed to lack self belief

Martial can terrify defenders when running at them but seemed to lack self belief

And that came after barely having a break last summer, with France reaching the Euro 2016 final but with Martial having lost his international starting place too.

These are situations which can have a huge bearing on moods and ultimately confidence. He should look at this United squad and believe a starting XI spot is well within reach.

Rashford was given the nod because of his workrate and Mourinho is pursuing a deal for Inter Milan's Ivan Perisic. The Portuguese wants more options but United are said to have rejected any suggestion of Martial heading the other way.

'I don t know him well enough to say if it s more love or a tougher style that he needs, but young players and I was the same need to be told the truth, so you work harder the next day,' Silvestre added.

The 21-year-old has had problems in his private life which impacted his performance

The 21-year-old has had problems in his private life which impacted his performance

Martial, pictured during a training session at Manchester United's Los Angeles training base

Martial, pictured during a training session at Manchester United's Los Angeles training base

He tried to stay focused on the pitch for 90 minutes. There was also talk about him leaving the club but he came out and said I m not going anywhere, I m going to try to impose myself here . So that shows the character and the type of person he is, so I m hopeful for him.

These are the months when Martial's future at Old Trafford will be crystallised. A goal against LA Galaxy at the weekend won't have done him any harm to begin with.

Silvestre spoke for all defenders when he said: 'Every time he touches the ball, even out here in training when it s early doors, you can sense the danger and the defenders I wouldn t say they re afraid but you don t dive into a challenge when you re facing Anthony, because he can go left or right, and beat you with speed.'

It is that sort of fearlessness in possession Martial really needs to harness again. There is extra defensive responsibility which comes with playing wide for Mourinho but he should remember what makes him such a talent when opportunities come to run at markers.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's departure from Old Trafford could open up opportunities for Martial

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's departure from Old Trafford could open up opportunities for Martial

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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