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Manchester United must emancipate Anthony Martial against CSKA Moscow

02 Nov | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Manchester United must emancipate Anthony Martial against CSKA Moscow

Returning the Frenchman to a forward position - alongside Wayne Rooney - can inspire Louis van Gaal's side to their first win in five fixtures

Anthony Martial played his first six games for Manchester United as a striker, scoring four goals.

United, meanwhile, won five of those matches and found the net 14 times in total.

But in Martial’s seventh appearance, United were skittled 3-0 at Arsenal.

The 19-year-old, despite being United’s most impressive attacker since joining the club, has been shunted on the left-wing ever since.

It is a curious decision from Louis van Gaal, but one influenced by three factors: the form of Ander Herrera, the “special privileges” afforded to captain Wayne Rooney and the manager’s desire to not be exposed like they were at the Emirates.

And while the continued malaise and selection of Rooney is queried most, it is actually the latter which is the most pressing issue.

Humbled by that defeat to the Gunners, Van Gaal has subsequently made his team more resolute after United’s attacking front four of Martial, Rooney, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay caused Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick to be overwhelmed in midfield.

Herrera is worthy of his place, but Rooney is toiling up top while Martial – just as United’s No. 10 was asked to do early in his career – has been asked to perform diligently out wide.

Van Gaal has attained the extra stability he was seeking – the club have kept four clean sheets in their last five matches – but in doing so he has made them impotent in attack.

Since the 3-0 win at Everton, United have not won in four games and drawn the last three 0-0.

There are, of course, matches which require discipline and solidity – the Red Devils’ authoritative display at Goodison was their best of the season – but Van Gaal, too, must become more courageous.

The Champions League fixture at home to CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, then, is the perfect place to do so.

Martial, whose runs in behind and clinical finishing were the reasons for his immediate impact and the team’s winning run, must be returned to his original position.

The Frenchman equalised in Russia two weeks ago – his first ever goal in UEFA’s elite club competition – and is 4/1 to open the scoring this time around.

Rooney’s form, of course, is a concern, but both he and Mata – who has been ineffective in recent weeks – will benefit from Martial playing on the shoulder of the opposition defence.

The England captain and Spanish playmaker are evens and 2/1 respectively to score at any time on Tuesday.

Herrera, therefore, could replace either Schweinsteiger or Morgan Schneiderlin in one of the two deep midfield roles that Van Gaal has insisted on playing this season.

Two holding players are not required in a side that dominates possession – especially at home – and the Spaniard would provide much-needed guile and dynamism in the middle of the pitch.

That would make United more susceptible to concede for the first time in more than 270 minutes – they are 12/5 to win and for both teams to score – but Van Gaal has to be proactive if his side are to claim their second victory of the campaign.

If he continues to be preoccupied with not losing, however, then the prospect of United progressing from Group B – or winning silverware under the Dutchman – is unlikely.

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