Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag remains uncertain whether to hand Anthony Martial a new deal at Old Trafford and is preparing to run the risk of losing the French attacker as a free agent next summer.
The 27-year-old is now into his ninth season at Old Trafford, having been brought to the club by Louis van Gaal all the way back in 2015. Signing for a huge fee that eventually topped £57.6m, the transfer made Martial the most expensive teenager in world football at the time.
His time at Manchester United has been a mixed bag, however, it is fair to conclude. Sometimes brilliant, more often below his best, Martial has scored 89 times in 307 appearances for the club.
However, while his talent is not in any doubt, his application and determination to succeed for the Red Devils often is; and it is for those reasons why Martial has proved a huge enigma during his long spell at Old Trafford.
His latest deal however – signed back in January 2019 and worth £250,000 a week – is due to expire next summer, though United do hold a one-year option on his contract.
But with time ticking away on that arrangement, ESPN reports that Ten Hag remains uncertain, even at this stage, whether to offer Martial an extension, simply trigger the one-year option – a strong consideration given he is costing the club £1m a month in wages – or allow him to simply walk away as a free agent.
Man Utd to risk losing Anthony Martial as a free agent
United could even take the decision to try and offload Martial in January. But having tried to sell the player during the summer – they reportedly offered Martial to Real Madrid in a cut-price deal before the window closed – the only serious offer that reportedly landed on the club’s doorstep came from Saudi Arabia; a move the player is seemingly not yet ready to accept, despite the ludicrously high wages that are on offer.
The situation is certainly a tricky one for United and will prove devisive whatever decision Ten Hag comes to. It also recreates the same scenario David De Gea found himself in this time last year, with Ten Hag ultimately deciding to allow the long-serving keeper to quit as a free agent.
Of course, Martial could take matters into his own hands. The former Monaco youngster can open talks over a free move overseas in just 81 days time with the player eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere from January 1.
To that end, there remains some interest in the player from the Serie A, with both Inter Milan and Juventus long-term admirers of the player and seemingly willing to discuss a potential free-transfer move if the player agrees to a reduction on his terms at Old Trafford.
In the meantime, Ten Hag will continue to mull over how best to proceed with the forward and the view from Old Trafford is that Martial’s future is very much in his own hands. Impress, and he could yet earn an extension or, at the very least the triggering of his one-year option.
But go the other way – and the concern Ten Hag has is that the player often fades in games and struggles to make his impact felt – and there is a fair chance that United will simply allow his deal to lapse and the player to depart as a free agent.
United take up options of Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka
However, having paid such a sizeable fee for his services, there will be a feeling of regret at United were that scenario to play out.
And with the situation a direct repeat of De Gea, it could yet prove another costly mistake by the club if their £56m signing departs without any money coming back into the Old Trafford coffers.
Meanwhile, ESPN reports that United have though decided to take up the one-year options in the deals of both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof.
The defensive pair are also out of contract at the end of the season, meaning they too could negotiate free transfer moves from January 1.
However, it’s reported that Ten Hag will act to remove that option from them by triggering the 12-month options on their deals.
Ten Hag has reportedly been won over by Wan-Bissaka’s dedication and commitment to the cause with it appearing the player’s time at the club was drawing to a close just a year ago.
But he has convinced Ten Hag he is worthy of both a shirt and a long-term stay and the club now plans to negotiate an extension with the former Crystal Palace man at the first opportunity.
Lindelof, meanwhile, will also see his year-long option triggered at Old Trafford. However, it remains uncertain where he figures in Ten Hag’s long-term thinking and the extension has been triggered in the Swede’s deal, first and foremost, to ensure he does not leave as a free agent. However, the possibility of his sale remains an option for Ten Hag if he can bring in a new central defensive signing of his own in 2024.