Man Utd quest for Martial arts

Swansea City defender Ashley Williams (left) challenges Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during the side's 2-1 victory on Sunday. The addition of French striker Anthony Martial could bring relief for Man United's woes in terms of scoring.
Swansea City defender Ashley Williams (left) challenges Manchester United's Wayne Rooney during the side's 2-1 victory on Sunday. The addition of French striker Anthony Martial could bring relief for Man United's woes in terms of scoring. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Anthony Martial
Anthony MartialPHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Van Gaal overturns his own assurance in $78m teen purchase to bolster firepower

LONDON • A day after Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal said that he would not jump into the transfer market to solve his side's scoring problems following their 1-2 defeat by Swansea City, the club agreed to a £36 million (S$78 million) deal to sign 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial.

The Monaco player was yesterday granted permission to leave the France squad an hour after reporting for duty in order to travel to England to complete the shock move.

In what appears to be a desperate late attempt to bolster their depleted attack, Martial could become the most expensive teenage footballer in history, surpassing the £34 million that United paid for Luke Shaw last year.

The striker, who scored 12 goals in 48 matches for Monaco last season, is understood to be seeking Champions League football, something Monaco can not offer after being knocked out of the play-offs last week by Valencia.

The lack of Champions League football also means that Monaco are in a weakened position financially, making the proposed £36 million deal more attractive.

EXPERT OPINION

He plays centrally but often drifts into wide positions, more on the left than the right. He's got a good combination of pace and power.

DIDIER DESCHAMPS, France coach, on striker Anthony Martial

With Javier Hernandez on his way to Bayer Leverkusen in a deal worth about £9 million, United are also set to allow another forward to leave for Germany, with Adnan Januzaj in talks with Borussia Dortmund over a season-long loan.

United's problems up front were exposed again at Swansea.

Wayne Rooney was unconvincing despite getting four decent chances. Twice he was out-muscled by Ashley Williams, having initially got the better of the Swansea defender.

The United captain has not scored a league goal in 864 minutes and has recorded just eight shots on target in the last 10 games.

At the Liberty Stadium, he had 39 touches - four fewer than United goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

United had 64 per cent of the ball but retained possession without purpose, panache, or a change of pace.

Juan Mata gave them the lead in the 48th minute, but after Swansea manager Garry Monk had altered his midfield configuration to a diamond, the hosts struck twice in five minutes.

Andre Ayew equalised in the 61st minute with a header and then produced a superb pass for Bafetimbi Gomis to beat Romero at the near post for the winner.

Asked if he would add attacking power before today's transfer deadline after seeing his side score just three goals from four league games, van Gaal replied: "You can never speak as a club like United that you are satisfied. (But) certainly we shall not sign at the end of the transfer period a player that we have not scouted before.

"We know in offence what is happening or not happening. It is not an issue."

Even if United were monitoring Martial, the move for a player who cost Monaco just €5 million (S$7.9 million) from Lyon two years ago, is a huge gamble by van Gaal.

Tottenham Hotspur reportedly bid €10 million for the player earlier in the summer but were told to up their offer to €20 million. United are paying significantly more if Martial signs.

Still, he is widely regarded as one of the most exciting young footballers in France and earned his first call-up to the senior national team on Thursday, for the forthcoming friendly matches against Portugal and Serbia.

The forward is inexperienced, however, having made just 61 senior appearances for Lyon and Monaco.

"He plays centrally but often drifts into wide positions, more on the left than the right," France coach Didier Deschamps said of Martial last week. "He's got a good combination of pace and power.

"He's a young player obviously but he's got an interesting profile in an area where it's not easy to find players with both strength and speed. He's got good potential."

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Quest for Martial arts'. Print Edition | Subscribe