Anthony Martial has made a blistering start to his Man Utd career and has emerged as the odds-on favourite to end the season as the club’s top goalscorer.
Martial & His Betting Odds
He is best priced at -150 with Bet Victor to score more league goals than any of his teammates and, given the lack of firepower within the squad, it looks a pretty shrewd bet.
When Utd paid an exorbitant amount of money – £36 million, possibly rising to £58 million if certain performance-related clauses are met – it sent shockwaves through the game. Fans at his old club, Monaco, said they were “astounded” by the fee, as Martial had not been one of their top performers.
He had only played 49 times for the French side, scoring just 11 goals, and only playing the full 90 minutes on four occasions.
One UK newspaper ran the transfer story under the headline: “What a waste of money”. Even his own manager, Louis van Gaal, admitted it was a “ridiculous” amount of money to spend on an unproven teenager. Man Utd’s pockets are among the deepest in world football thanks to their enormous global fanbase, and cash was burning a hole in those pockets following the sale of Angel di Maria to Paris St Germain.
They had also shipped out former top scorer Robin van Persie to Fenerbache and fellow Javier Fernandez to Bayer Leverkusen. They were desperate for reinforcements and Monaco knew they could hold out for a fortune as there were so few strikers available on the marker.
The general consensus was that Man Utd had been ripped off.
Then came the Premier League match against Liverpool, where Martial made his debut. Utd were leading 2-1 but looked incredibly vulnerable as Liverpool poured forward with wave after wave of attack. But with four minutes to go, Martial picked up the ball in the kind of left wing position that provided the springboard for many a mazy run into the box from Cristiano Ronaldo. The way he jinked past Martin Skrtel and Nathaniel Clyne with pace and tenacity evoked Ronaldo at his best, and the calm side-footed finish into the far corner conjured up – whisper it – Thierry Henry in his pomp. The crowd erupted: Martial had already paid back a hefty chunk of his transfer fee by vanquishing the old enemy, and the Old Trafford faithful said they had a new Henry in their ranks. Even the normally impartial commentator Martin Tyler let his guard down with a cry of “oh…YES”. Martial then banged in two goals against Southampton to seal a 3-2 victory.
This leaves him as joint top scorer in the Premier League for Man Utd, level on three goals with Juan Mata.
He has seemingly established himself as Man Utd’s first choice striker, and will start up top, with Wayne Rooney playing in the hole behind him, Mata on the right and fellow new signing Memphis Depay on the left. Mata has never finished a season as his club’s top scorer and is more of a creative force than a predatory striker, so Martial can be expected to finish ahead of him in the charts.
Depay, who has one goal to his name this season, is another unpolished diamond, full of pace and tricks. But he will play a deeper lying role than Martial and will be expected to whip in crosses from the left for his teammate to bury.
Rooney vs. Martial
The greatest threat to Martial is Rooney. The Man Utd captain recently overtook Sir Bobby Charlton as England’s all-time leading scorer and has scored a remarkable 235 goals in 490 games for Man Utd. But Rooney has been on an even more remarkable goal drought of late. His goal against Sunderland last month – his only strike of the season – was his first in 12 matches.
Rooney no longer cuts the bullish figure that has terrorised defenders across the world for the last decade. He has seemingly lost a yard of pace, shed some of his trademark aggression as he deals with the pressure of being made club captain, and the goals have dried up. Like many a footballer that was overplayed in his teenage years, he may well have been burnt out. Despite the drought, however, van Gaal is tipping Rooney to score 25 goals this season. That would be enough to surpass Martial.
One factor in Rooney’s favour is that he takes penalties for Man Utd. Also as captain he is likely to start every game.
Martial, meanwhile, could be spared as Man Utd do not want to risk their expensive investment suffering the aforementioned burnout.
Another note of caution for anyone thinking of lumping on Martial to be Man Utd’s top scorer this season comes from van Gaal, who has labelled the teenager as one for the future. The Dutchman has pledged to retire when his contract expires in 2017, and said the next manager will reap the benefits of Martial’s signing rather than him. Yet Martial’s stunning start could well have changed all that. He was the only player to emerge with any credit from the 3-0 mauling Utd suffered at the hands of Arsenal in their last league game. While Rooney looked slow and plodding, Martial was sharp and dangerous. Without the likes of Hernandez and van Persie to call on, Man Utd have very few attacking options and Martial is likely to get a lot of game time.
But the short price soccer odds available may make it only worthwhile for bettors that want to stake a large amount on him. You then have to factor in the risk that he could be injured, or that Man Utd could buy another striker in January and bench Martial, ensuring the dreaded burnout is avoided.
Martial is +2200 to finish top scorer in the Premier League. Sergio Aguero, the favourite, has just suffered a torn hamstring and could be out for a month. If Martial can overtake him, and continue to grow in confidence, he could well seize the golden boot. There will be stiff competition from the likes of Theo Walcott, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Diego Costa, not to mention Aguero, but that long shot could prove a more interesting soccer pick.