There are a number of issues circling around Manchester United at the moment.
José Mourinho’s constant battles with the media, the incessant speculation surrounding Paul Pogba and the club’s overall form dog supporters on a daily basis.
Yet something on the horizon threatens to fuel their disillusionment.
The current situation surrounding Anthony Martial is expected to heat up over the next few months as we approach the end of the year. Once the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve the French international will have finally entered the final six months of his contract at Old Trafford and will be free to discuss pre-contract agreement with clubs.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror suggests Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal are also waiting in the wings to try and snatch up the young, promising talent should he decide his future lies away from Manchester United.
Yet before the speculation surrounding the 22-year-old cements into genuine news, it’s worth considering where Martial currently stands.
Mourinho doesn’t seem too keen on him but is Martial worth keeping at the club?
Martial primarily plays on either wing as an inside forward and enjoys cutting inside to either score or create chances for his teammates. Within this current squad that lines him up directly against Alexis Sánchez, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and perhaps even Juan Mata.
To justify keeping the Frenchman at the club next season he has to be able to show that he can keep all or at least most of these players out of the starting XI.
Since this season is still in its infancy, a fairer comparison exists over the course of last season. And when we look at each player’s stats, we get a clearer sense of where Martial ranks.
Stats reveal Martial’s strengths
For example, with 11 goals in 2491 minutes of football last season Martial’s goals per 90 minutes is second only to Lingard at a relatively impressive 0.4. Yet when we break that down to only non-penalty goals it falls to 0.33 goals per 90 minutes and Martial finds himself below Lingard and Rashford.
Intriguingly, Martial’s average xG (expected goals) per 90 minutes is higher than any of his United colleagues at 0.48, suggesting that the Frenchman is perhaps better at getting himself into goalscoring opportunities but isn’t as good at converting the chances as well as Rashford or Lingard.
Where the 22-year-old does redeem himself somewhat is in his ability to create chances for his teammates. When we look at the forward’s assists per 90 minutes from last season we find him sitting impressively on 0.33, which is higher than any of his teammates, and with some notable distance between him and second-placed Rashford on 0.26 assists per 90 minutes.
Similarly, Martial averaged 3.43 cross per 90 minutes last season, which far exceeded Lingard or Rashford’s 1.52 and 2.78 averages, suggesting that the French international was far more inclined to pick a teammate out in the box rather than cut inside and try to find the back of the net himself.
It’s here that we perhaps get the best idea of what it is that Martial offers United. While Rashford and Lingard may be slightly better out-and-out goalscorers on their day, Martial can bring a degree of playmaking and build-up to the team that they perhaps can’t.
Indeed, as the reports suggest, the club may be prepared to offer Martial a bumper contract extension simply because he’s the best all-round player at the club in those, specific positions. And while Mourinho may prefer Sánchez or Romelu Lukaku up front today, who’s to say what the Portuguese coach himself or indeed his potential successor will want next season.
At such a young age, Martial has already shown – despite the circumstances at the club right now – that he has all the raw talent to match his teammates up front.
And United will surely appreciate that a slight change to the current situation may finally get the very best out of him.