Where would Manchester United be without Anthony Martial?
On Saturday, it was the Anthony Martial show against Swansea, as the French forward wrecked havoc in the Swansea defence.
Here’s a few things we learned from Manchester United’s 2-1 win over the Welsh side:
1. Van Gaal rewarded for change of system.
Louis van Gaal started his United tenure with a three-at-the-back system, but later dropped the idea, before returning to that system again this week. The side lined up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, which brought the best out of Young and Martial, operating higher up the pitch. United went back to back-four after the break, but Young continued to push higher up the pitch on the right, providing the delivery for the all-important breakthrough goal.
2. The 20-year-old Anthony Martial is utter class.
Even during the tedium of United’s wretched recent run, Anthony Martial has continued to scare opposition defences with his pace and ability at one-on-ones. But the record signing is more than a speed machine. He is also developing into an all-round front man, and the win over Swansea showcased his all-round ability. Martial opened the scoring with a greatly timed header after 47 minutes, and then turned into a provider for Wayne Rooney, cutting inside to square the ball to the skipper, who produced a fine flicked finish.
3. Rooney can still turn it on.
For the second consecutive game, the United talisman showed that he can still be a decisive player at this level. Rooney followed up his man-of-the-match display against Chelsea with another vigorous performance. He led from the front after United conceded an equaliser with just 20 minutes to go and scored the winning goal with a nifty finish.
4. Ashley Young is a key player for United.
The Englishman slipped down the pecking order at Manchester United before Christmas, as he struggled with his dual role as a full-back and a winger. However, when restored into the role of an orthodox wide-man, Ashley Young displayed an outstanding performance against Swansea. His crossing was consistently dangerous, and it was one of the 30-year-old’s deadly crosses that helped the home side break the deadlock, as his perfect delivery was headed in superbly by Martial.
5. United are trying to be more expansive.
It was evident against Chelsea last Monday evening that Louis van Gaal was looking to inject an increased tempo into his more forward-looking side. Morgan Schneiderlin was still present as a barrier to protect United’s three-man back line, but Ashley Young and Anthony Martial played as out-and-out wing-backs to provide some attacking width.
Young, in particular, carried an early threat, but tellingly, there was no goal to follow to ease the pressure around Old Trafford.
Schneiderlin got forward for a half-chance in the first minute but his shot was blocked and it wasn’t until the 20th-minute that Wayne Rooney – United’s sole-out-and-out striker – had an effort at goal. However, the captain, reflecting his side’s short-comings in front of goal, hasn’t scored in the league since mid-October, and the shot went wide into the side netting.
He was more unfortunate with a header from a Young cross which was blocked 10 minutes before half-time, and it ultimately took Anthony Martial to show the way, with the Frenchman’s goal coming just after half-time.