Eye On EPL

Consistency the major challenge for hitman Martial

Anthony Martial
Anthony Martial PHOTO: REUTERS

As the world's most expensive teenage footballer, the pressure on Anthony Martial's young shoulders must have been immense as he was brought on against arch-rivals Liverpool on Saturday night.

But in one mazy dribble, combined with a lucky ricochet and a sublime finish, the 19-year-old Manchester United striker endeared himself to the legion of fans immediately.

There is no better way for a United hitman to announce his arrival than with a goal against Liverpool - on his debut, no less.

It is too early to say if Louis van Gaal has struck the jackpot with the Frenchman, but he certainly has all the ingredients to be a star.

At 1.81m, Martial is an imposing front man, but he complements it with good movement and pace.

At 1.81m, Martial is an imposing front man, but he complements it with good movement and pace. However, what I like most about him is his guts, and the way he likes to run at defenders, something which the Red Devils have missed.

However, what I like most about him is his guts, and the way he likes to run at defenders, something which the Red Devils have missed.

There are comparisons with Arsenal great Thierry Henry, and there are certainly similarities, not least of all the cool manner with which Martial slotted past Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

But it is important though to note that the former Monaco player is still young, and is coming from a league that is a few rungs below the English Premier League.

Being consistent will be his biggest challenge this season, although, judging by the way he handled the pressure against Liverpool, chances are he will do well.

This bodes well for van Gaal, whose team have been lacking a clinical forward to spearhead the attack.

While Martial was inspired, the game was otherwise a scrappy affair, unlike the blood-and-thunder matches that usually occur between these two foes.

It is apparent both teams are still trying to find their best XI and formation in the new season.

While the Red Devils looked more settled on Saturday, alarm bells must be ringing in Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers' head.

His team looked out of sorts in a 4-3-3 formation. The players are obviously uncomfortable in the set-up, and it feels like he is forcing the issue by sticking to the tactic.

I think they should play with two up front. Roberto Firmino and Danny Ings are not wide players.

To play a 4-3-3, you also need to have strong defenders - something which Liverpool lack as well.

There was also no Reds player in the starting line-up you could count on to produce a game-changing moment.

But overall, the thing that stood out like a sore thumb is a lack of leadership in the Reds camp.

There is no one in the side for the players to rally around and look to for inspiration - a role former captain Steven Gerrard performed with distinction.

That, and finding a formation that suits the players he has, must be high on Rodgers' list of priorities - or another mediocre season beckons.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Consistency the major challenge for hitman Martial'. Print Edition | Subscribe