Back when Jose Mourinho ruled the Manchester United roost, he tried to offload Anthony Martial. That was in 2017 and now, nearly five years on, owner Joel Glazer has performed a U-turn by allowing the France international to join Sevilla on loan. A second chance may be on the cards, however, with the club not shaking hands on an agreement for the La Liga side to snap him up permanently in the summer.
There came a time where Martial was meant to be United’s future.
During the dark days of the Louis van Gaal era, when Old Trafford’s fear factor reduced, the France international was a shining light.
Martial was impressive under the Dutchman, scoring 17 goals during his maiden campaign at the club and helping them win the FA Cup.
Ever since, however, he’s struggled for consistency.
Martial has had some good moments, such as in the 2019/2020 season where he scored 23 goals under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and clocked up nine assists across all competitions.
Yet he’s never become the player he was meant to be, with Monaco previously expecting him to be a contender for the Ballon d’Or one day.
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Now, Martial leaves for Sevilla.
And that comes nearly five years after Glazer flatly refused to let the 26-year-old go.
Back in 2017, after steering the club to Carabao Cup and Europa League glory, Mourinho made it clear he wanted to stamp his own image on the team.
Martial, he believed, was mentally weak. Not up to it. And he also felt the former Monaco star went missing in matches when he really needed him to deliver.
Glazer, however, made it abundantly clear the Frenchman wouldn’t be allowed to leave Old Trafford.
Some have even gone as to say the controversial American claimed Martial was the club’s very own version of Brazil legend Pele.
Now, with hindsight, it appears he got that decision wrong.
Martial may have impressed during Solskjaer’s first full season at the helm but he’s regressed ever since, even if he did shine off the bench during Saturday’s 1-0 win over West Ham.
With just eight goals since the beginning of last term, he’s not done enough to make the No 9 role his own.
And it’s telling that he’s failed to make an impact ever since the arrivals of A-list hitmen Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani.
Martial will now depart to Sevilla, with the La Liga side appearing to have won the race for his signature ahead of Newcastle and Barcelona.
But United do appear ready to give him a second chance.
This summer, things will again change at Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick, the club’s interim boss for the time being, will move upstairs.
Then, the club will appoint a new manager. Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag are the frontrunners, while Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui are under consideration as well.
Martial could be of use to any of the quartet who are currently on their shortlist.
So that’s why they’ve failed to include a clause in the loan deal that would enable Sevilla to sign the forward permanently at the end of the campaign.
That suggests United are covering their own backs.
And that’s a welcome decision because if Martial rediscovers his mojo, the club would be welcoming back a very different player to the one who now leaves.
Rangnick, meanwhile, praised Martial after the win over West Ham and lauded the ‘professionalism’ of his No 9.
“Since we last spoke one-and-a-half weeks ago, I told him it’s about being professional until the very last day no matter how long he stays or when he leaves,” Rangnick said.
“It was good to have this conversation with him.
“In the last two games, he was part of the squad and today he played a vital role in the goal that we scored,” the manager continued.
“He’s a top player, one of the best strikers in the Premier League but we have other players in his position and it is his wish to leave but, as I said to him, it always takes different parts to find an agreement and the way he trained and played when he came on today showed his professionalism I expect from everybody.
“I am happy he was playing today, that came on and had a vital role in the goal.”