Louis van Gaal admitted that Anthony Martial may already be ahead of schedule after he scored twice in Manchester United’s win over Southampton.
The Frenchman added to his debut goal against Liverpool last weekend with two strikes on his first Premier League start for Manchester United, helping the Red Devils overcome a one-goal deficit to eventually win 3-2.
Signed for £36.7million from Monaco in the summer, the 19-year-old was seen as more of a purchase for the future at the club, but Van Gaal admits he is already extremely important to the United cause.
“Anthony Martial is already special because we paid a lot of money for him. A lot of people are thinking he is a great star but he is a boy of 19. In three matches he has shown a lot.
“He’s running always in behind, but he could also be the attacking point. He keeps the ball and he’s very important for us now already.
“He has the talent to do it but the Premier League is very physical, but he’s also a strong guy. We can expect maybe more consistency than I had expected but you never know. We are only three games in for him.
“I am very happy with him but we and he have to keep our feet on the ground.
Martial may have joined in the summer, but another important piece of transfer business this season was keeping Spanish keeper David De Gea at the club.
The United number one was in excellent form at St Mary’s, producing first a stunning stop from Jose Fonte’s header, before keeping out Victor Wanyama’s stinging late strike. Van Gaal was full of praise for his keeper when talking to Sky Sports, but made sure to mention his predecessor and rival, Sergio Romero.
“Sergio Romero has also saved us in games. David De Gea made a remarkable save from Fonte, and therefore we are very happy he shall stay with us.
“That is why we were difficult in the transfer window. I have always said we wanted to keep David De Gea.”
Asked on his overall thoughts on the game, Van Gaal responded: “For the first time we held a game after we were ahead. We controlled the match better and killed the game.
“After the Champions LEague match against PSV our players are tired, and you can see that in the last 15 minutes. But I liked the way we did it because we controlled the game in the second half, although the last 15 minutes was difficult.
Asked how he instigated United’s comeback from one goal down, Van Gaal responded: “The players are doing that, they are performing.
“I changed Matteo Darmian for (Antonio) Valencia, but before that we scored already the equaliser. I have to say it was also a fantastic action of Martial and Mata.
“I have to say, in the last 15 minutes of the first half we created the chances. Then in the second half I think we reduced (Dusan) Tadic on the wing because he was very good, and we brought in Valencia.
“(Bastian) Schweinsteiger can also control the game better, I think, and he also made the pass for the third goal.”
The Dutchman was particularly happy with Juan Mata’s goal, which came as a result of 44 passes beforehand: “Fantastic. Then you can finish it. It’s unbelievable,” Van Gaal said.
But Van Gaal also provided a stark reminder of those expecting a title challenge, with United now just two points away from bitter rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. Asked whether his side could challenge for the title, Van Gaal simply replied: “No. Of course we shall always strive for it because we did also last year, but you cannot expect from a team in transition already a title.
“When we are close we shall grab it.”