Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag feels Anthony Martial is vital to his side’s chances of success amid ongoing issues over his fitness.
Martial, 26, has been a notable absentee for the Red Devils this season. The France international has played just 128 minutes of Premier League football due to injury. Separate thigh, calf and back problems have kept the former Monaco ace on the sidelines.
He has bagged two top-flight goals, finding the net twice in a 6-3 loss to Manchester City.
The talented forward also scored against AC Omonia in the Europa League. And he was on the score sheet as United beat Aston Villa 4-2 in the EFL Cup on Thursday evening.
The Frenchman may well be in the starting XI when the north-west giants travel to Fulham on Sunday. And Ten Hag believes the only thing missing from his game is an ability to keep himself fit.
“Definitely. I like a player like Anthony,” the Dutch tactician replied when asked if Martial was important to the team. “He can hold the ball, he is a target, he can run behind, he can finish and he is a good presser.
“He plays very well in a lot of aspects of football and I am happy with that. I’m happy with everything except his availability.”
Martial injury woes a matter of concern
Martial joined Manchester United in September 2015, three months before his 20th birthday. And he was a regular starter during his first campaign for the club, getting the nod 29 times from 31 league appearances.
He scored 11 goals and 17 in all competitions, including two in the Champions League. However, his production and number of starts tailed off over the next few years.
The Massy-born star started 18 times in each of the next three seasons, with many appearances off the bench.
But the 2019-2020 campaign saw him fit and back in favour, with 17 top-flight goals and 23 in all competitions.
Fitness issues limited him to just 17 starts the following season and he was overlooked early in 2021-2022. He enjoyed only two starts and eight outings before being loaned to Sevilla in January 2022.
The former Lyon player failed to make too much of an impact with Los Nervionenses.
Injuries again took their toll and he earned just seven LaLiga starts and failed to find the net in Spain’s top division.
With just one Europa League goal to his name, he returned to Old Trafford with much to prove. But it has been another frustrating period in Martial’s career.
And Ten Hag admitted the United medical team have been looking into why the man with 30 Les Bleus caps has missed so much action.
“Of course we analyse that, what we can do to change that,” he added. “We made some measures to do that as it is always when you are often injured – illnesses too – there is a reason, but sometimes it is also bad luck.”
Martial key to Man Utd plans
United will hope to take all three points from west London this weekend to head into the World Cup break on a high.
Cristiano Ronaldo may well return to the squad after illness, with Wayne Rooney taking aim at the legend on talkSPORT.
But it is clear that Ten Hag rates Martial highly and is keeping his fingers crossed over his fitness.
“I am happy he is back and that we can manage him and that he stays fit, because he is an important part of the squad,” he continued.
Martial is still young enough to make a real impact for United. He has scored 83 goals from 275 appearances in all competitions.
But no player is any good to a manager in the treatment room and patience may be wearing thin with the injury-prone star.