18+ | Commercial Content | T&Cs apply | Begambleaware.org
As the old saying goes, there's no smoke without fire. Which is why reports linking Anthony Martial with a move away from Manchester United this summer should be of concern to Red Devils supporters.
Depending on who you believe, José Mourinho is willing to sell the Frenchman to Juventus in order to finance a move for Gareth Bale or, less likely, use the 22-year-old as a makeweight in any deal struck for the Welsh star.
Bale would be an excellent addition for United, as discussed here, and Mourinho is a known fan. Martial, meanwhile, has started just 24 games in all competitions this term and his place in the side has come under further pressure by Alexis Sánchez's January arrival from Arsenal.
The Chilean has, more often than not, taken up the position on the left of the attacking trio and that has seen the France international shifted out to the right wing. It's a position he hasn't performed well in.
Sánchez should make the inside forward position on the left his own. Given the circumstances surrounding his transfer, the quality of the player, and the wages he is being paid, it would be difficult for Mourinho not to pick him. But what does this mean for Martial?
A club at the top level, where United remain despite numerous naysayers, needs more than one quality option in each position. Sánchez, , Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata are all vying for these spots in the front three, and the inclusion of Martial in this mix means the club have good variation and strength in depth.
However, the form of Memphis Depay since leaving United – albeit after failing to impress in England – could be a warning to the club when it comes to Martial.
In his first full season since leaving United, Depay has contributed to 18 goals in 21 starts for Lyon, who are challenging Monaco and Marseill for the two remaining Champions League qualification spots behind Paris Saint-Germain.
He’s just one behind Kylian Mbappé in both the goals and assists charts, and is one of Ligue 1's most exciting players to watch.
Excitement is something this United side are often accused of lacking, but rather than look back to the players that got away, the club should look at what they have.
Rashford is a bag of tricks when given freedom to play his own game and Martial, despite being one of the coolest operators around, can also inject a game with a healthy dose of flair and panache.
Mata is the creator-in-chief, whether operating from the right or more centrally, and it also appears that the Spaniard, along with compatriot Ander Herrera, is one of the players who contributes the most to maintaining some of the club’s never-say-die spirit from years gone by.
Lukaku and Sánchez complete the team's attacking weaponry, with some support from attacking midfielders such as Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, and the addition of Bale would make the occasional plucking of a Galactico from the transfer market seem more like a pre-planned strategy rather than a lucky dip.
But even if Bale does arrive, it shouldn’t be at Martial’s expense.
Mourinho has a history of letting players go who then hone their talent before moving into football’s upper echelons.
Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah are the most high profile examples, but two of his most valuable assets at present day United, Lukaku and Mata, are also on the list of talents Mourinho saw no place for during his second coming at Chelsea.
Despite Sánchez’s arrival, Martial has appeared in most of the fixtures for which he’s been available, only remaining on the bench against Swansea City after coming back from two games out with a thigh injury.
The club will face a much-lauded Tottenham side in the FA Cup semi-finals, where Mourinho will get the chance to show that his side warrant their position in the table, and can win in style on the big stage.
If they’re to do so, Martial’s presence could be vital if they can work him into the same side as Sánchez.
Before picking up his injury, the Frenchman assisted the equalising goal against Chelsea, scored by Lukaku, in a game they went on to win, and he could be equally important against their next London opponents.
Even if he doesn’t start the game, he would be a good weapon to have on the bench should the game drag on towards an extra time stalemate, and he’s also used to taking penalties.
But beyond this tie, which could define United's season regardless of where they finish in the league, it's definitely worth keeping Martial at Old Trafford. Let him go and he could become Mourinho's next big mistake.