A perfect first step

REUTERS

Just 21 minutes after his introduction from the substitutes’ bench, Anthony Martial bamboozled Martin Skrtel with a mazy run before slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet to score the final goal in United’s 3-1 win over their bitter rivals, Liverpool. By Paul Hirst.

Anthony Martial can barely speak a word of English but he has already made a big impression on his Manchester United team-mates.

The 19-year-old is under pressure to live up to his billing as the most expensive teenager in world football. He could be forgiven for struggling to deal with the sudden glare of publicity but his dream debut against Liverpool suggests he has what it takes to cope.

Just 21 minutes after his introduction from the substitutes’ bench, Martial bamboozled Martin Skrtel with a mazy run before slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet to score the final goal in United’s 3-1 win over their bitter rivals.

It was the first step in justifying the GBP36million fee he commanded when he moved from Monaco this summer and although he did not choose his price tag, there must have been relief at opening his goal account for the club so soon.

Certainly his team-mates were impressed, with winger Ashley Young saying: “It was a fantastic individual bit of skill, (there was) maybe a bit of luck in there as well, but the way he finished it was incredible and it’s a great start from him.”

The fact that the strike came after he had spent just a few days training with the rest of the squad made the goal more impressive.

Martial has barely had time to settle into his surroundings. He is living in a city centre hotel and has had to use compatriot Morgan Schneiderlin as a translator because his English is limited to a few words.

“It’s early days for him — he’s been away on international duty and only trained the last couple of days with us — but he’s young and he wants to learn,” Young added. “Morgan is his translator as he doesn’t speak much English yet, but if he can go out on the pitch and talk like that, that’s enough for us.”

Daley Blind, who scored the opening goal against Liverpool from a set-piece drill, was also impressed by the new recruit’s debut. I’m really happy for him,” Blind told MUTV. “He’s a big talent and we all need to be happy that he’s in our team and that he created a goal like this.”

It is not just United fans that were in the dark about the new signing when news broke of his move to Old Trafford. Just like Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick admitted he knew little about the French youngster until deadline day. “I have to be totally honest, I didn’t know an awful lot, no, like many, but I do now,” said the midfielder. “He is off the mark now. He has announced himself, everyone has seen it on the big stage. It’s a good start for him. I am sure his confidence will be sky high after that. It’s a good way to settle him and if that has raised expectation then so be it. That is part of the game.”

Given the pressure on Martial to succeed, United boss Louis van Gaal might have been expected to play down the hype surrounding him after his debut but instead hailed him as the best young forward in the world.

Van Gaal has been criticised for agreeing a fee which could rise to GBP58million but after just one match, the new boy has already written his name into Old Trafford folklore.

“When you make a goal like Anthony did you cannot wish for more,” said Van Gaal. “He has pace to dribble but his finishing was fantastic. A lot of players have made a debut and scored with me so it’s a good signal.”

The United manager still expects Martial to encounter bumps in the road of his career in England but believes he possesses talent like no one else in his age group.

“We have scouted him and we wanted him because he's the best in his age,” added Van Gaal. “But he needs time. He’s been with us for three days, that is too short to judge his personality but he made a very good impression in the first three days, that’s why I selected him to be on the bench. He scored a marvellous goal and he physically can play in the Premier League, I believe.”

Martial is not the first youngster to enjoy a dream debut. Federico Macheda famously scored an injury-time winner in his first appearance for the Red Devils but then managed only three more goals and is now in the Championship with Cardiff City.

Martial has a long way to go to be declared a success but his goal against Liverpool will certainly buy him some time.

© PA Sport