On the surface the question of if Jose should go all out to keep Anthony Martial at the club is a simple one. The answer largely depends on if you like him as a footballer or not, and nearly every United fan I know has an opinion on him. If you were to gather those opinions from outside the stadium on a match day, you are likely to get a collection of balanced opinions. If you were to gather them from Twitter, like all other things, he’s either the footballing messiah, or he’s fool’s gold.
But like with most things, this question isn’t really a simple one, but one that is multifaceted. One of the things that stands out to me is the “all out” aspect of it, and it raises the question in my mind if a club like Manchester United should go “all out” to keep anybody? Through the course of my time supporting the club I have seen players like Kanchelskis, Sharpe, Ince, Hughes, Stam, Sheringham, Cole, Beckham, Keane, van Nistelrooy, Tevez, Ronaldo and many more who have provided Premier League and Champions League winning contributions ushered out or leave of their own free will. All have been replaced and Manchester United has lived on to win more trophies and reach more major finals. Anthony Martial, whether you love him or loathe him, is but another player in the history of Manchester United, and one who has yet to achieve some of the things that the aforementioned have. So why should he have any special privilege?
The question therefore must shift from if Jose should go all out to keep him, to if his contributions can be of a bigger benefit to Manchester United than another player? This question cannot revolve around Martial FC but must be about Manchester United FC. The things that should therefore be considered are the traditions of our club and the makeup of the squad.
From the perspective of club traditions, Manchester United is synonymous with the development of young players. How it would be perceived if we were to sell Anthony Martial this summer, with clubs like Juventus and Tottenham said to be interested, would certainly be negative. The doom and gloom machine that is the English football press would be bashing us as failing in player development, even though it was them who said he was a waste of money when he first arrived. More importantly however is how other young players might react. What kind of impact could it have on players like Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, Angel Gomez and Axel Tuanzebe? What for players like Andreas Pereira and Luke Shaw who are already rumoured to have fallen out of the good graces of Jose? The fear that they are a few bad games away from being on the chopping board could be the breaking of them too.
From the perspective of the squad, a less damaging image appears. Anthony Martial has blown hot and cold over his time at Old Trafford, but he is a young player and that is to be expected. The question is, if he was to achieve consistency in his best performances, would he be someone the squad would miss? With players like Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford, who both offer very similar attributes from the left-hand side, it becomes obvious that he is not. Alexis Sanchez is a world class player at the peak of his powers, who the club will benefit from more regularly with a pre-season under his belt and the troubles of his Arsenal past well and truly behind him. Marcus Rashford has many of the same consistency issues as Martial and offers many of the same attributes. While Martial may arguably have better dribbling and finishing, Rashford unquestionably has a higher work ethic, passing and vision. This is not an argument for keeping one over the other, but a point that, if we were to lose one, it wouldn’t be that bad for the squad because we do have the other.
The left wing is a position that United have covered, but all three of the players we have there are able (and in some cases prefer) to play in other positions if required. Another major point is that they are all right footed. The problem with this is that whenever they check back in to cross the ball it gives defences that extra second to organise and cut off the supply to Lukaku. The traditions of Manchester United have always been in wing play, with left footed players getting to the by-line and crossing in for our strikers. Looking back to our time under Sir Alex, he had the likes of Giggs, Blomqvist and Fortune having spells on the left, all of which were left footed players. With the Gareth Bale rumour train at full steam this summer, if United wanted to return to their traditions on the pitch, they could achieve this by replacing Gareth Bale with Anthony Martial.
So regardless of what your personal feelings are on Anthony Martial, there can only be one answer to the question of ” Should Jose go all out to keep Martial?”… and that is unequivocally, no.