The Romelu Lukaku saga rumbles on as Manchester United’s pre-season schedule fast approaches, beginning across the globe in Australia in no less than three weeks time. The Belgian striker has been linked with a move to Serie A for pretty much most of the offseason with Inter Milan his most likely destination as Antonio Conte’s side are set to offer a two-year loan plus a £63-million obligation to buy.
Although manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is making measures to improve his team after a disappointing sixth-place finish last term through the arrivals of winger Daniel James and soon to be joining him full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, it would still leave a gaping hole in an area of huge concern. If Lukaku were to be sold soon, it would leave Solksjaer short on options in the forward department with the season rapidly on the horizon. Marcus Rashford would become the only recognised striker in the first-team setup and even then his performances tailed off towards the end of the season.
One player who could enter the fray, should the Belgian international leave, is Anthony Martial. It’s easy to forget that the Frenchman is only 23, having joined the club four years ago in September 2015. His spell at the club has drawn mixed opinions and that’s also reflected in his playing time. Martial has very much been a bit-part player over the last season or so – even despite signing a five-year contract extension back in January keeping him at the club until 2024.
Last season, Martial made only 18 starts in the Premier League but in some measure, found a role as ‘super-sub’ after still netting 10 goals. The 2017/18 campaign was a similar tale with the French forward being subbed on for 12 of his 30 appearances. With his minutes on the pitch and goals scored increasing over those two seasons, it’s time for him to actually justify the £36-million fee they paid for him. The Express have reported that Solksjaer will consider moving Martial back into the role he first played at the club – centre forward. During that season he proved his critics wrong by scoring 18 goals up front and helping United to an FA Cup triumph.
It was Jose Mourinho’s tenure and the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic that stopped the French international from kicking on that season but now the opportunity arises for Martial to reclaim that number nine shirt and start leading the line at Old Trafford. He’s shown it in short spells but the forward needs a run at it for a longer period of time and what better time is there than when the club are crying out for a striker.
The sale of Lukaku would raise finances for further strengthening of Solksjaer’s side but the switch of Martial to striker can allow those funds to be spent in more pressing areas such as central defender or at holding midfielder. Wan-Bissaka isn’t making the move north on the cheap either – they’ll cost them a reported £50-million fee despite only one full Premier League season to his name. Though, that appears to be the going rate these days for any British player.
Martial is still so young and developing. He’s also shown he can score goals when given the chance. Ole, it’s time to trust the Frenchman to lead the line next season whilst continuing to strengthen the defence. If anything, at least Martial doesn’t have the touch of someone’s dad trying to play football poolside on holiday and will be less frustrating to watch than what they’ve seen from Lukaku.