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Anthony Martial: A Victim of Wayne Rooney's Slump and Over-Exposure

07/12/2015 16:39 GMT | Updated 07/12/2016 10:12 GMT

It's been quite the ride for ​Anthony Martial in his first three months as a Manchester United player.

From "what a waste of money" to Old Trafford hero in the space of a few days. From unknown teenager (in England, at least) to one of the hottest prospects in world football. His early days at Old Trafford have proven to his new audience, and to the rest of the watching world, that he possesses the essentials required to be a leading star in the future of this game.

Nobody would have expected the Frenchman to make such an immediate impression. Martial's goal against Liverpool was his Federico Macheda 'a star is born' moment - in the sense that it came about so quickly and promised so much in a few short seconds - but while he'll turn out umpteen times the player the Italian turned out to be, he must be afforded the same patience.

Of course, Martial bears the unfortunate burden of "the most expensive teenager in football". His initial £36million fee trumped that record on its own and by the time each add-on is paid up, it'll take that figure to just short of £60million. Mind-blowing stuff, even in this day and age.

It's unfair to burden Martial with those figures, but football is a results-based, ever increasingly statistical business and every decision - in the transfer market or otherwise - is scrutinised to the nth degree. There's quite literally no hiding place.

Though at least Martial's excellent first month in England put to bed the Mirror's awful "waste of money" jibe and made people forget that he cost such a wedge of cash. Martial had precisely zero control over his price tag - that decision was made by his former and new club - so let's just concentrate on his football instead, bearing his age in mind.

That's a message for you, increasingly irritating BT pundit, Paul Scholes, man who himself came through the United ranks and was far from the finished article at the age of 19. Just recently he criticised the Frenchman for "not being bothered when he scores or misses". Seems the acid tongue is spared for no man when it comes to his former employers.

Accepted, Martial's recent form has fallen into something of a slump. After four goals in his first four games following his summer transfer, Martial has gone on to hit just one goal in his next 16 games for club and country and put on a disappointing show in the top of the table clash against Leicester City at the weekend. Martial failed to record a single shot on goal and lost the ball 23 times at the King Power Stadium.

Typical of most footballing teenagers' form is its peaks and troughs, though. Martial is suffering from the latter at the moment, but United have so little in the form of options in the striking department that they almost have to stick with him.

Most United fans would throw their arms up in disgust if Martial was dropped over Wayne Rooney at the moment, and rightly so, but at the same time such over-exposure to the pressure-cooker of first team action is doing little to help the young Frenchman.

Barring the 25 minutes on his debut against Liverpool and the recent match he missed against Watford with injury, Martial has played 90 minutes in every Premier League game since he arrived at United. For a 19-year-old at the self-proclaimed biggest club in the world, it's a tough job to live with such responsibility. Even Cristiano Ronaldo couldn't do that at 19.

Ultimately, United's decision to rely on a wilting Rooney and a teenager as their chief striking options for an entire season was always going to come back to bite them. Add to that a system that shackles each player from moving barely ten yards out of their designated zone on the pitch and you've got another problem entirely.

Manchester United are lacking a goalscoring hero at the moment, and while it was hoped back in September that Anthony Martial could have been that man, it's wrong to expect it to happen so quickly.

Perhaps United should delve back into the transfer market in January after all. Romelu Lukaku, anyone?

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