Sunderland-Manchester United Preview
At his current goal-scoring rate, the world's most expensive teenage signing may eventually be remembered as a bargain-basement buy.
Anthony Martial looks to continue his torrid start with the Red Devils at Old Trafford on Saturday when Manchester United host a reeling Sunderland side.
Though manager Louis van Gaal called the £36 million transfer price tag that could eventually reach £58 million "ridiculous," the early return of investment for signing the French teenager has been highly promising. Martial has scored four goals in just 225 minutes of play over four matches across all competitions, and the 19-year-old is proving to be a handful for opponents at the domestic level.
He helped United bounce back from a stunning defeat at PSV to open Champions League play - the only match in which he failed to score - by bagging a brace in a 3-2 victory over Southampton last Saturday. Martial then put the finishing touch on Wednesday's 3-0 triumph over Ipswich Town to advance the Red Devils to the fourth round of the League Cup opposite Championship side Middlesbrough.
"He knows that he can score because of his fellow players," Van Gaal said of Martial to the team's official website. "We made it for him two times very easy because we won the game and the gaps are existing. With his speed and composure, he can score."
The midweek win healed some of the scars of last year's embarrassing crash exit from the League Cup in van Gaal's first season, a 4-0 setback at League One side MK Dons in the second round. But overall, things are on the upswing for United (4-1-1), who enter this match two points behind their neighbours in blue for the Premier League lead.
Wayne Rooney and fellow 19-year-old Andreas Pereira had the other goals for United, with the Brazilian youngster getting his first goal on a free kick in the 60th minute. Rooney's 235th career goal for Manchester leaves him two behind Denis Law for second all-time.
While United appear to be enjoying some smooth sailing, it's been anything but for Sunderland. The Black Cats (0-2-4) are partners in misery with their Tyneside neighbours Newcastle at the foot of the table, trailing the Magpies on goal difference and have shipped a league-worst 13 goals thus far.
A 2-0 league loss at new boys Bournemouth was followed by Manchester City storming to a 4-1 League Cup victory at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday, further intensifying the scrutiny on coach Dick Advocaat. The Dutchman, though, insisted there was optimism to be found and lamented a disallowed first-half goal he felt could have turned the match.
"It's strange because we were 4-0 down but I thought for the first 20-35 minutes we did very well against an extremely good side," he told Sunderland's official website. "If Ola (Toivonen) had scored that early chance to make it 1-1 it could have been different, but it was not to be."
Sunderland have failed to score in their last two league matches, but prior to the loss at Bournemouth, they had scored four goals in their two road matches. Jermaine Dafoe has failed to score since his hat trick in last month's League Cup win over League Two side Exeter City - the lone victory for the Black Cats so far - and American winger DeAndre Yedlin showed enough pace in the midweek loss that he may find his way into this match.
United took four of the six points from the two matches last season, with Rooney's brace accounting for their 2-0 home victory. Sunderland's lone Premier League victory in 14 matches (1-2-11) at Old Trafford came in 2014.