Martial & De Gea prove their mantle to soft-centred Manchester United
Martial showed just why the Premier League big-spenders rate him so highly with two perfectly taken goals, while De Gea made another huge contribution at the other end
Had Manchester United’s transfer window ended even slightly differently, days like Sunday would not have been possible.
On September 1 they held on by their fingernails as David de Gea, who had previously looked destined for Real Madrid, stayed on their books by luck more than judgement. Less than 24 hours later they added Anthony Martial to their ranks as their final bit of business. Already they are reaping significant rewards for their deadline day dealings.
Their 3-2 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s was the perfect showcase for the two stars, with Martial’s double turning a convincing deficit into a 2-1 lead and De Gea doing everything humanly possible to keep the home side from getting back on level terms thereafter.
“What a waste of money” came the sarcastic chants from the away end as the £36 million teenager pounced on Maya Yoshida’s horror back-pass to slide United in front. He’d earlier turned Virgil van Dijk inside out to bring parity to a scoreline that on another day might have weighed heavily in Saints’ favour.
But whereas Graziano Pelle hit the post moments after his opening goal, and Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse both failed to work De Gea, Martial was supremely clinical. His first three shots on target in the Premier League have yielded three goals.
“When you are 19 years old you cannot expect consistency, normally you have dips, so I also expect that from him,” reiterated his manager Louis van Gaal after the game.
“But in three matches he has shown his talent is a high level and he has shown he can play in our system. He has shown he wants to do that and he can do that.”
“[What’s the best thing about him?] That he scores goals of course!”
But they still needed to keep them out at the other end too.
Enter De Gea. First he made an astonishing one-handed save at his near post from Jose Fonte’s header which had seemingly already passed him. Then after Juan Mata and Pelle had exchanged goals he was at it again, stretching full length to keep out Victor Wanyama’s 20-yard strike late on which would have earned the home side a point many will suggest they deserved.
United have hit the target only six times in their last two Premier League fixtures but have netted from all six. It is quite the economy rate, but one wonders how much longer they can keep up such a rate.
You also have to wonder how long De Gea can keep delivering such heroics. Once more, United often looked shabby defensively, and once more their goalkeeper dug them out of a hole. It was something we saw constantly last season, and it looked like another solution would have to be found as the 24-year-old sat waiting in Spain with his fingers crossed on deadline day.
But, to the chagrin of the rest of the Premier League, he has come back for more and signed a four-year contract to boot. He said when putting pen to paper that Old Trafford was the perfect place for him to develop, and it is fair to suggest he will get more than enough opportunities to show his qualities behind a United side this lacking in structure. The weak underbelly remains, but De Gea does a great job of hiding it.
Football is such that not everyone has to play superbly for a team to earn a victory. Normally, a side looks for seven or eight players to turn in a good performance in order for them to gain the maximum points. United are getting by on two right now.
De Gea’s quality is shining through at one end, while Martial’s clinical edge is paying instant dividends at the other.
Louis van Gaal has plenty still to do, but the form of two star men is ensuring that work can continue from a position of strength.