Why Anthony Martial will not be going to Russia
Anthony Martial's season at Manchester United has been entirely forgettable. The week after the season ended proved to be the hardest for the tricky winger. He was excluded from Didier Deschamps World Cup squad then his side lost the FA Cup final to Chelsea. To add insult to injury, he was only sent into the match with a few minutes remaining. How did a player touted as the next Thierry Henry find his career stuck in park?
Martial gained prominence with Monaco in his first full season. He scored 12 goals across all competitions and finished as the club's highest scorer. That made him a top target for elite clubs. He opted for a move to Old Trafford, signing a £36 million deal with add-ons that had the potential to make it £58 million. Those are heady figures for a 19-year-old.
At United, Martial shone under former manager Louis Van Gaal. He found the net on his debut against league rivals Liverpool and recorded 17 goals across all competitions that season. He has been less productive by Jose Mourinho's definition and has consequently found himself in and out of the team.
In 2016/17, Martial had to deal with personal issues and Marcus Rashford's emergence. The United academy cadet became the first choice on the left flank. Martial was sparsely used but netted two goals in his first two games. However, the season never favoured him. He struggled for consistent form.
Despite being a fan favourite, Martial never earned Mourinho's trust. All Mourinho saw were more reasons not to play him. Every unimpressive performance was fuel on the fire, the exemplary ones going unappreciated. Despite a surge in January when he scored in three consecutive games, adding an assist in one, and sported the best goal+assist/90 ratio among United players, Mourinho acquired Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal and benched his French star.
Martial has had difficulty breaking into the France team on a regular basis since 2016. With three caps since 2017, it was no shocking revelation that Didier Deschamps thought less of him. The former Marseille boss had a wealth of choice. Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, and Thomas Lemar were all competing for the same place as Martial. Without any playing time, he fell down the pecking order.
He undoubtedly has much to offer and is willing to play the game the best way he can, but he is still very raw. He is just 22 and has the better years of his career ahead, but he does lack the discipline to track back for his team or the ability to produce a good cross for his teammates in the box.
The main reason he was excluded from Deschamps’ squad is his club form, which has been very poor. Some may counter that Mourinho’s style of play has cramped his growth. The fact remains he has little to show for his time at the Theatre of Dreams to earn him a spot in the French squad.