Although pre-season suggested impending doom, the speed at which everything unravelled was still something to behold. Despite Mourinho having a face like a yard of tripe and seemingly doing his best to talk down our prospects, the fixture list actually came out looking pretty kind to United. No really severe tests during the first couple of months, maybe if we got off to a decent start then things might settle down and…
Nope. Not happening. 30 minutes into the Brighton game, the wheels had well and truly come off and any misguided pre-season optimism was extinguished. It was all so predictable. The most blackly comedic aspect was that Mourinho picked exactly the same team most of his internet-based detractors were clambering for. Bailly and Lindelof at centre half, Pereira given another start and Martial picked up front. In short, it failed miserably.
I’m at a complete loss to explain the unconditional love a loud minority of reds continue to have for Anthony Martial. To me, he’s the absolute personification of the modern day player who takes everything whilst giving virtually nothing back in return. I used to think that insouciant, blank expression fixed to his grid was a sign of self-confidence, but now I’m not convinced. I think it’s more the case that he genuinely doesn’t give a shit what happens.
I don’t think he’s in the slightest bit concerned if he plays or if he doesn’t, or if he goes to the World Cup with France or stays at home. There doesn’t seem to be any change in his body language or reaction no matter what happens to him. The fact he left pre-season training to attend his child’s birth and support his partner came as a shock as it suggests there is a human being with feelings in there somewhere. So he’s not just an automaton being forced to play football against his will? I see.
If Martial was a genuine top drawer player then perhaps his unflinching self-regard would make some sense. Instead, he has the air of someone with nothing to prove when in reality he still has everything to prove. I’m not really concerned with the fact he scored the winner in the FA Cup semi during his first season, it’s his constant smacked arse demeanour ever since then that gives you more of an insight to the kind of man we’re dealing with here.
Presumably, the ultimate source of his dissatisfaction is the fact he isn’t starting week-in, week-out in either his preferred position up front or elsewhere. Rather than taking this on board and endeavouring to develop and improve like any other 22 year old footballer might, instead he appears to have embarked on the kind of career-defining sulk that was pioneered by fellow French dissident Nicolas Anelka back in the late nineties.
The difference is that when Anelka was agitating to get out of Arsenal, he had Real Madrid waiting in the wings and fluttering their eyelashes at him. With the greatest respect to Martial, the only place he’s going after United is down. He’s not prolific enough as a goalscorer and not a talented enough winger to make the move to one of the best sides in Europe, expecting otherwise would be sheer delusion on his part.
If Martial’s agent had any sense at all he’d be pleading with his client to get his head down and start working whilst he still has this opportunity. Try cementing a place in what’s a struggling team with numerous starting berths up for grabs. His chief rivals are Rashford and Lukaku, and neither of them could be described as untouchable – yet they’re both justifiably ahead of Martial in the pecking order.
Contrary to what a sizeable number of Martial FC fanboys seem to think, that’s not solely down to Mourinho bearing some sort of grudge or purposefully stifling his development. It comes down to having personality, the right attitude and not letting your head drop. It’s exactly the same reason why the extremely limited Olivier Giroud now has a World Cup winners’ medal whereas Martial was left watching it at home on telly.
When France won the World Cup, I received a text in the immediate aftermath from fellow Red News scribe Sparky stating “Great, that’s Pogba’s head nowhere near football for the next 6 months.” Didn’t take long for that one to come to fruition, did it? Fair play to Poggers for being so candid in the aftermath of the Brighton defeat. For the team captain to freely admit “my attitude was not right”, that’s some next level honesty that is. It’s not something you ever want to hear from one of your players, of course… in fact it’s absolutely batshit crazy when you think about it.
I mean, we’d lost on that very same ground only 6 months previously. It wasn’t like Brighton away was a game any casual observer was expecting us to turn up and win convincingly, to me it spelt potential banana skin with a capital P. For all the bullshit uttered by Pogba about the captaincy being a honour… blah, blah, blah… his blithely inept performance and that admission afterwards said it all about his true character.
Despite being old enough to know better, I still struggle to get my head around the complacency of professional athletes earning vast sums in such exalted, privileged positions. Paul lad, you’re the new captain of Manchester United. Having the right attitude is a pre-requisite for the job. We, as supporters, can predict the fixtures the players won’t show up for yet several still seem to be under the illusion that they’re good enough to coast through games with less than 100% invested. Lads, you aren’t. You really aren’t.
Copyright Red News – September 2018