Louis van Gaal cannot afford to continue playing Anthony Martial on the left to accommodate Wayne Rooney, according to Alan Smith.
Martial was used in a wide position for the third game in succession against Manchester City on Sunday, with Rooney up front and Memphis Depay on the bench. The Frenchman was Manchester United’s brightest attacking spark, setting up the best chance of the game for Jesse Lingard, but Rooney again failed to impress in a game which saw him lose the ball more than any of his team-mates despite having the least touches of any outfielder that started the game.
According to Smith, Van Gaal cannot allow the situation to continue for much longer.
He wrote in his Daily Telegraph column: ‘With Memphis Depay out of form and favour, and with Ashley Young injured, Louis van Gaal would argue that he hasn’t had much choice over the last few weeks but to play Anthony Martial on the left flank. That situation, however, surely cannot be allowed to continue.
‘Because if the 170th Manchester derby taught us anything – apart from the fact that these tussles can occasionally turn out to be incredibly dull – it was that the young Frenchman represents Manchester United’s biggest attacking threat just now.
‘Going hand in hand with this argument is the realisation that Wayne Rooney’s days as a lone striker might be coming to a close. That is at least how it looked at Old Trafford yesterday when United’s captain hardly laid a glove on Manchester City’s back four.
‘With more miles on the clock than most newly turned 30 year-olds, Rooney clearly doesn’t have the legs for such an energetic role requiring plenty of pace in the modern game.
‘Martial, on the other hand, most certainly does. Not only that, he possesses the strength and ability to quickly develop into a centre-forward of real menace.
‘On this evidence, it was no surprise at all that he went on to create United’s best moment of the match. Drifting inside from the left wing, the £36m signing spotted Jesse Lingard’s run and found the substitute with a beautifully floated pass that Lingard deflected onto the bar.
‘With this, most boxes had been ticked. In a very tight contest we had seen glimpses, albeit limited, of the player’s power, pace, ball control and vision. The only thing missing was his finishing ability, something already seen five times this season.
‘And having witnessed all this first hand, Van Gaal must surely be itching to reinstate his player to a central position. That way, Rooney can drop back to a more suitable role as the new kid on the block takes over the running.
‘Because as Van Gaal said himself last week, you simply must be able to shift quickly to play up front these days.’
Discuss this on the new-look Manchester United Your Say forum.