Anthony Martial signing shows why gutsy Louis van Gaal could still be a Manchester United legend

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Many eyebrows were raised when Manchester United spent a whopping £36m on signing virtually unknown striker Anthony Martial this summer (according to BBC Sport at the time).

The BBC added that this fee could even end up rising to £58m. No one could understand it initially, but the hefty fee is beginning to make sense following the striker’s superb performances in English football so far.

His current record in a United shirt reads: four games, four goals. Few would have seen this coming just a couple of weeks ago, with the 19-year-old managing just 12 strikes in 46 appearances last term, hardly the most impressive record.

Still, Louis van Gaal clearly saw something there that was worth paying for, and clearly it wasn’t the name, which rather alarmingly threw so many football fans who are now so used to the glamour signings like Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria who, by contrast, were massive disappointments at Old Trafford last season.

The answer?

Buy more big names, apparently, and there certainly wasn’t a shortage of such rumours towards the end of the summer, even with unrealistic stories about a possible move for Barcelona forward Neymar (via The Guardian).

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It says a lot that fans, pundits and journalists alike couldn’t fathom the thought that Van Gaal was paying this money not for a big name or an established star, but for the potential he had, not only to develop into a more polished performer as he grows older, but for his current attributes to provide exactly what this Reds side lacked up front – pace, smart off-the-ball movement and positioning, and composed finishing.

Wayne Rooney is a far more well-known talent, but it’s clear that his best days are behind him. Lacking both the physical attributes and the confidence needed, the England captain is still to score a single league goal this term, and his presence as the main forward was undoubtedly of little use to the kind of playmakers Van Gaal has in midfield.

By contrast, Juan Mata and Bastian Schweinsteiger have had a lot more luck with their creativity and passing with a player like Martial now on the end of the moves.

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Back in the early days of the Premier League, we were treated to unknown foreign players arriving and taking this country by storm.

In the internet age we seem to have lost a bit of that, with stats and videos available 24/7 and any impressive talents immediately made into potential superstars by the social media crowd; how refreshing it has been for Martial to join a big club like United and genuinely take his game to the next level; how refreshing that a big-name manager risked his reputation by spending money not on a player the fans wanted, but on one who just fit into the tactical system he wanted to play.

More brave signings like this could ensure Van Gaal goes down in the history books at Manchester United.


More Stories Angel Di Maria Anthony Martial Louis van Gaal Neymar Radamel Falcao Wayne Rooney