An awkward start after Sean Longstaff finished to De Gea’s right was dispelled with a quick reaction from Martial’s first. The academy of the attack in Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford scored to put daylight between the two sides and Martial rounded off the scoring was a cheeky dunk to give a happy Boxing Day for the Old Trafford faithful.
A lot of speculation has been had about the purported move for Erling Braut Håland given the fact that United’s lack of cutting edge in attack and the clamour for a striker only increased Martial continued to put in middling performances, some goals withstanding. He answered the critics in the only way you could, one courtesy of a mistake of the Dubravka at his near post and the other latching onto a poor pass from Sean Longstaff, dinking over the keeper with finesse. It was not only the goals that impressed with the regards to the Frenchman, it was the general sharpness in the attacking third, something that he severely lacks in his worst times. His pressing for the second goal set in motion the set of events that allowed the ball to be presented to Greenwood, finishing with astonishing confidence and power. The paint of post is only what denied Martial from grabbing a well deserved hat trick, as a strong strike on his weaker foot whipped past the keeper. The play he showed today is what allows many to keep the faith but as he has just turned 24 years old some 21 days ago, hope and potential can only be held onto for so long. Consistency and reliability need to quickly become hallmarks of Martial’s game before the incessant talks of a striker being needed begin to subside.
The Other Guys
As well as the number 9 played, it would be unfair to leave out the contributions of Rashford and Greenwood, particularly the latter. The second, as aforementioned, was a peach of goal from the 18 year old. His notching on the goal sheet was all a bookmark in pages of good general offensive play from the youngster as the technical security we have been crying out for was shown in some abundance. If it weren’t being able to take in passes, it was linking up admirably with the other players in offensive phases. He managed to show his ability to threaten in behind or fronting up against Willems, who had a torrid afternoon. Rashford managed to stop his mini-drought with a goal that we seldom see from the English international: a header. It’s a feature of his game he’ll need to improve on if he wants to get the numerous numbers the best in the world achieve. Instances such as away to Chelsea in 17/18 and Leicester 18/19, where it looked as if he closed his eyes when he made contact with the ball, come to mind as heading opportunities missed but this was an excellent header at the back post that any striker or wide forward would be proud of.
It was impressive to see that even after Martial chipped the Magpies’ keeper, the press Man Utd imposed on the opposition was still maintained. Newcastle’s possession of the ball was poor but much of what made it poor was the lack of time they were allowed on it, the second as already mentioned being the highlight of it. It was organised as players followed after the initial trigger was set, meaning they weren’t allowed to be played around as you have seen so often this season. The midfield backed it up intensely, Pogba’s introduction even managed to step it up a bit. A general increase in dominating the defensive transitions would only allow more chances for our attack to run forward in their droves as they so like to do.