Anthony Martial: 'English football needs Man Utd striker to succeed'

By Ian WrightBBC Sport
Match of the Day

I would love to be analysing a dream debut for Anthony Martial when I come to discuss Manchester United versus Liverpool on Match of the Day on Saturday.

It is the biggest game in English football and a massive occasion for his first United appearance - if he features at Old Trafford.

But the very fact I am wondering whether Martial will start, or even play at all, says a lot about the £36m transfer and suggests that United have paid such a massive initial fee for his potential, rather than anything he has done in his career so far.

Man Utd's mystery teenager

Man Utd forward Anthony Martial
Martial made his senior France debut last week as a substitute in their friendly win against Portgual

Martial is 19, and before the start of this season had only completed four first-team games for Monaco. He has played a total of 30 minutes of senior international football for France, all in the past week.

Like myself, not many United fans will have seen much of him in action but, starting this weekend, he is going to be under major scrutiny because of how much he has cost, his record up to this point and the fact a club of their size has signed him. The pressure will be immense.

So I hope that he proves to be the absolute gem of a player that United think they have bought, for his own sake and for the sake of English football too.

Martial is a great talent - Saha

Otherwise, United spending so much on a teenager who has scored only 11 goals in 52 matches in Ligue 1 will just be used to show how the money in our game has gone completely crazy.

At the moment, that is what most people seem to be thinking. His fee could rise to £58m and every single former player I have spoken to has been amazed by how much he has cost considering how little football he has played.

On paper, what he has done is not that impressive either. If Martial had scored 25-30 goals I would be thinking 'that's only in Ligue 1' and he has not even got close to that.

His goalscoring record does not say to me that he is going to be the new Sergio Aguero, but I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

I am not on my own in not knowing what to expect from him, let alone where he will play, but being a bit of an unknown quantity will help him against Liverpool.

Anthony Martial's senior career since his Monaco debut in November 2013
CompetitionLeagueFrench CupsEuropeFrance
Minutes played2,64136475930
Full games (90 mins)4120
Shooting accuracy53%N/A71%0%
Shot conversion20%N/A14%0%

The best scenario - he starts as well as I did

Man Utd forward Anthony Martial
Martial took 71 minutes to score his first Monaco goal, which came in his second game and his first start

So far, Martial has said all the right things in interviews and, considering he has joined one of the biggest clubs in the world, he seems to be dealing with everything pretty well.

It is on the pitch where he will be judged, though, and it could be that this weekend he goes 'bang' - with a performance that shouts "here I am, and this is what I can do".

That could happen, especially in a team like United's. They will create chances and, if Martial has got the strength and pace I keep hearing about, then he could have a big impact very quickly.

I hope he does, because it would be great for the Premier League to have a new star.

The best scenario, especially for a forward player, is obviously that he hits the ground running at his new club by scoring some goals straightaway.

There was pressure on me when I joined Arsenal for what was then a club record fee of £2.5m in September 1991 but I scored in my first game, got a hat-trick in my second and never looked back.

Wright took 45 minutes to score his first goal for Arsenal, on his debut against Leicester
Wright took 45 minutes to score his first goal for Arsenal, on his debut against Leicester

Any pressure disappeared and, instead, I was full of confidence.

The way I looked at it then was that I could go four games without scoring and my average would still be good but the way I was feeling, I knew more goals would come - and they did.

Henry comparisons are inevitable

Not every player gets off to a flying start like I did at Arsenal. Also for the Gunners, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp both had to wait a while to get off the mark.

I have heard Martial being compared to Henry a lot because of his playing style and the way he can come off the left or right wing as well as down the middle.

Thierry Henry celebrates his first goal for Arsenal
Henry took 473 minutes to score his first goal for Arsenal, against Southampton in 1999

That is great if it is true and, if he is not an out-and-out striker, he will need to be able to make goals for others like Henry could.

Yes, those comparisons add even more pressure but they are inevitable because both players left Monaco at a young age and came to England for big money - Henry had a brief spell at Juventus in between, but his £10.5m fee was the third-biggest in English football when he came to Highbury in 1999.

Henry, who was a couple of years older than Martial and a lot more experienced at first-team level, scored 26 goals in his first season for Arsenal, but did not find the net until his ninth game for the club.

There is an argument that Henry's early days are an example of why Martial will need time before showing us what he can do.

That is true, but I still saw Henry's ability in those first few games. I had left Arsenal by then but on his left foot or right foot, he had skill and athleticism and was such a dynamic player.

He was not scoring goals but I remember looking at him and thinking 'wow - when he kicks in, he is going to be awesome'.

In Memphis Depay, United already have one young player who makes me think the same whenever I watch him.

Man Utd forward Memphis Depay
Depay, 21, joined United from PSV Eindhoven for £31m in June

You can see Memphis is not quite firing on all cylinders at the moment but there is still something really explosive building up in him, and you can tell he is going to do something special soon.

What I saw from Thierry and what we are seeing now from Memphis is what I want from Martial on Saturday. It would be even better if he can nick a goal or two as well.

Rooney record is big boost for United

One thing that Martial can rely on at his new club is that his team-mates will look after him and help him as much as they can, especially because of his age, his price tag and the fact he has moved to a different country.

Even a player of Bergkamp's experience needed that while he settled in. He went six games without scoring after joining Arsenal for a British record fee of £7.5m in 1995, but we were unbeaten during that time and I scored four goals, which took a lot of the pressure off him.

I'm a proud man tonight - Rooney

You can be sure that Wayne Rooney will look to do the same for Martial and I think it is brilliant news for United that he has just broken Sir Bobby Charlton's record as England's top goalscorer.

Rooney has had a difficult start to the Premier League season but his international goals in the past week will have lifted a weight off his shoulders and, whether Martial plays or not, I think Liverpool could feel the backlash of that at the weekend.

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