Manchester United striker Anthony Martial has revealed that Brazilian icons Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were the players who inspired him growing up. But, these days, the Frenchman’s new focus is on scoring goals and being as effective as possible.
Martial hails from Les Ulis, the same south western Parisian suburb as Thierry Henry, and where Senegal-born Patrice Evra also raised. He would play football daily after school and it was there that he tried to copy what he’d seen from his inspirational Brazilian idols.
“Back then, I would say my favourite players were the Brazilians, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, because they were both fantastic players with beautiful movement and grace. They made their matches great to watch,” Martial explained in his club’s official Utd Unscripted series.
“I mostly loved Ronaldinho, because he was a player who could make you dream, with his great big smile on the pitch, with his great technical skills…I think that combination of great technical skills and the terrific goals he could score, it’s that which inspires people.”
Martial started his football career at his local club Les Ulis aged six. He moved on to Lyon’s youth ranks, before making his way to Monaco at 17. In 2015, he then famously became the most expensive teenager in the world when he joined United in a deal worth up to £58m.
Now aged 23, Martial is tasked with spearheading a new-look attack in Manchester. But where skills, tricks and dribbling were once his aim, now he’s chasing goals with a steely determination.
“…now it’s not just about the skills,” he explained.
“Now, it’s all about scoring goals for me. That’s my number one aim. It has to be. At first, I always loved to dribble the ball, almost to the exclusion of other skills, perhaps too much even.”
Seemingly destined to be sold during difficult moments in the last couple of years, Martial was praised for his attitude by United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in pre-season. The Norwegian hailed a ‘new Anthony’, a player who was fast improving the way he works for the team.
It has translated into impressive contributions at the start of 2019/20 for Martial, either side of a two-month spell out injured. He has scored or assisted in every one of the games that he started so far this season, and given his fresh outlook, it is not surprising.
This feels like such an important time for Anthony Martial. He's basically saying here that he's had that moment where his mental focus has now shifted to goals and impact. Ronaldo had it in 2006, as though someone flipped a switch in his brain. https://t.co/jP0zTZCr5B— Jamie Spencer (@jamiespencer155) October 30, 2019
That is because Martial, who makes United tick, is now adamant that decision making is crucial, and that doing something which doesn’t lead to a goal is not helpful for the team.
“Let’s say you make a decision not to pass, then fail to advance yourself - then you’re not helping the team,” he said.
“These days I am very focused on my central striker role, getting my scoring stats up and helping the team that way. That’s not to say that there will be no more tricks… but if I do a piece of skill, I want to score after it.”
The change in outlook has been reflected on in the type of goals he has scored this season – a tap-in against Chelsea that required anticipation and positional awareness, a clinical first-time finish against Wolves, and a slick interplay goal against Norwich.
Martial has scored three Premier League goals in five appearances so far in 2019/20. The talent is clearly there and now he has the mentality to match. Assuming he stays fit, could he be the first United player to reach 20 in the league since 2012/13?