The Contrasting Fortunes of Martial and Memphis

By Harvey Lewis

  • Both players arrived in the summer for big money
  • Memphis arrived with big things expected of him while little was known about Martial

With the Chelsea draw the fault of Memphis, according to many Manchester United fans, the opinion forming seems to be one writing off the Dutch winger.

Having allowed a suitable amount of ‘settling in’ time, the difference in form of Memphis and Martial, both young, expensive summer buys, couldn’t differ more. In direct comparison, as they are both left wingers (Martial’s most common position in a United shirt), what impact have each of them had on The Red Devils.

After his record-breaking £36m move to Old Trafford in the summer transfer window, Anthony Martial received possibly the most scepticism a transfer deal has ever  seen.Numerous fans, even those supporting United, wondered why Louis Van Gaal had spent the amount of money he had on an unproven Frenchman who hadn’t even distinguished his best position.

United’s manager was under scrutiny because of this deal and, although saying he wasn’t expecting an instant effect from Martial, Van Gaal sure would of been hoping for one. Having just seen his team lose at Swansea, Van Gaal decided Martial was ready to make the bench in the intense United/Liverpool fixture. Martial was introduced with 26 minutes to go.


With the score finally poised at 2-1 in the 85th minute, a moment of pure genius next appeared with Martial taking Martin Skrtel for a run before cutting onto his left foot, shaping himself round the ball he slid his shot, with his right foot, into the bottom corner of the net. All this right in front of the Stretford End in possibly the biggest league game in United fans calendar.

The young Frenchman kicked on from his perfect induction with 3 goals in 3 games. 2 against Southampton. One a fake shot and finish sending Van Dijk to his local chippy as he did, the second a brilliant showing of his awareness. A stray back pass from Yoshida was read by Martial who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner. His composure in front of goal was mesmerizing football fans across the country.

Martial then suffered a goal drought in the league, with no goals in 13 appearances. His subdued performances brought back the pessimistic opposition fans with the common ‘what a waste of money’ tag associated with Martial. However, time is on his side and, like many, they’ll be bad patches that he goes through. Although, unlike most, when he’s in form, he’s in form.

The Frenchman glides round players, creates chances and is deadly in front of goal. The stats back him up also. Martial has created a chance a game so far this season and while his shooting accuracy may not be the best, 6 out of his 13 shots on target have found the back of the net. He’s missed the target 15 times, just as a reference. This 20-year-old is sure to be a star.

On the other hand, Memphis has failed to set the Old Trafford faithful alight. Brought in for £19m, much to the surprise of many who thought he cost £27m, Memphis was handed the famous number 7 jersey being confident he could live up to the billing. His steady debut against Spurs had fans awaiting a Memphis show yet, apart from his two stunners against Club Brugge, his talents have yet to be seen.


Scoring only 2 league goals since his move, the Dutchman plays with a lack of confidence which must surely stem from Van Gaal’s restrictive tactics, the Dutch manager publicly criticized his winger after the 3-0 win against Everton after he hadn’t followed the tactical orders.

Due to his poor form, Memphis has been replaced by Lingard in the starting XI. The former PSV man has played 6 full games for United with 6 of his starts leading to him being replaced and 7 substitute appearances.

His shot accuracy is a mere 44% with the same amount of shots off target as Martial. Yet the difference in quality of these off target chances is huge. Martial’s shot fizzing wide of the post, Memphis’ being 30 yard hit and hopes caused by the lack of goals United, as a whole, have scored.

When comparing chances created, Memphis is eclipsed by his teammate having only made 8 key passes all season. To put this in context, Mata, Rooney, Martial, Blind, Herrera, Young, Darmian, Fellaini and Scweinsteiger have all created more. Lingard, his replacement has created 6 in 12 appearances while having 4 goals to his name also.

Depay hasn’t registered an assist this season either. He had the perfect chance to on Sunday yet wasted it with a lackadaisical pass to Schneiderlin in the 91st minute, after only being on the pitch for a short period of time. To make matters worse, Chelsea shot down the other end and Diego Costa sealed an equaliser for the struggling Blues.

Although his shortcomings this term, from his time in PSV, it’s a certainty that Memphis does have what’s necessary to become a star. Maybe a managerial change would do him no harm, or a run of games.

Both Martial and Memphis have much to offer United and over the period of their contracts, there is sure to be much to praise from both the attacking stars. It all takes time, something football isn’t very good at giving.

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