Manchester United's scoring woes are well-documented, and Anthony Martial's expected return on Monday vs. Arsenal is a welcome development for the club.
Manchester United expects to have Anthony Martial back from a thigh injury when they host Arsenal at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Monday, and the Frenchman’s return cannot come soon enough for a side that has struggled to find the net.
United stripped the squad of under performing forwards who no longer wanted to be at the club during the summer, with both Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez moving to Italy to join Inter.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted a platform for the likes of Martial, Marcus Rashford and 17-year-old Mason Greenwood to thrive. It was an ambitious vision that so far hasn’t yielded the success the United boss might have hoped, although it certainly isn’t without logic.
A major part of that is that Martial, who scored two clinical but very different ‘No. 9’ goals in the first two games of the season and produced an assist in the third, hasn’t been seen in action for just over a month – he has now missed five games in all competitions.
The former Monaco star is finally United’s premier central forward for the first time since his debut season in 2015/16 when he was still a teenager, and it is a huge shame that he has had to miss opportunities though injury, not least because the team is worse off without him.
Martial was originally expected back much sooner, but Solskjaer commented after the defeat at West Ham last weekend that he was ‘hopeful’ of his striker being available to face Arsenal.
Rashford, who is set to miss the Arsenal game with an injury he suffered against West Ham, is not comfortable operating as a target striker, despite Solskjaer’s public hopes last season.
The homegrown star doesn’t have the movement or penalty area instinct of a typical striker, as has been shown in several performances and was recently addressed by England manager Gareth Southgate. He is more suited to playing an ‘inside forward’ role from the left instead.
There was once also doubt as to whether Martial had that ability, but the start of this season, prior to his injury, showed that he definitely does. The return of his No. 9 shirt, three years after it was taken by Zlatan Ibrahimovic has also been significant in terms of confidence.
Greenwood could yet start against Arsenal in what would be his first Premier League start of the season. The teenage sensation has scored in each of his last two appearances against Astana and Rochdale and will be looking for his first Premier League goal.
Solskjaer has been right not to expect too much of a talent so raw and young so far, but Greenwood will continue to get more and more chances if he continues to take them. Martial's return, though, would reduce the large amount of burden placed on his very novice shoulders.