Anthony Martial is sending shivers through opposition defences and other things we learned from Manchester United 3 Stoke 0
By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Martial is in dazzling form
The world’s most expensive teenager carried on where he left off against Derby with another scintillating display. It was not just the superb curler that doubled United’s advantage that caught they eye but the manner in which Anthony Martial scared the living daylights out of the visiting defence every time he picked up the ball and ran at them. No United player seemed to have suffered as much as the young Frenchman during United’s turn-of-the-year slump but, to his credit, he is emerging from that funk in quite spectacular fashion. The deal that brought him from Monaco last summer could eventually cost United £61.5 million if a variety of incentive clauses are met. One is to pay the French club €10 million (£7.7m) when he scores 25 goals for the Premier League giants. That values each goal at €400,000 and Tuesday night’s effort – his ninth so far – was worth every penny. It is a target Martial should comfortably meet.
Van Gaal given some breathing space
It will take more than one emphatic win to disperse the storm clouds from Old Trafford. But after being booed off in the wake of United’s last home game – a miserable 1-0 defeat to Southampton – the reception the Dutchman and his team received at half-time will have been music to his ears. Before kick-off, you could cut the tension with a knife. There was polite applause as Van Gaal marched along the touchline and some equally polite waves back from the Dutchman. But, after scoring at home in the first half of a home game for the first time in 12 attempts, United were cheered off at the interval. This was more like the kind of football United’s fans expect to see and if they keep playing this way, there is a chance that Van Gaal will get his wish and remain at the helm. At the very least, a second consecutive win has earned him some breathing space.
Rooney will ease past Charlton’s record
The England captain struck early in the second half, minutes after having a ‘goal’ ruled out for offside, to record the 244th goal of his United career. In his sights is Sir Bobby Charlton’s club record of 249 goals and, with Wayne Rooney now having scored seven in seven games, that record should be broken this season. More relevantly, if Van Gaal is to emerge from this trying season with silverware or a top-four finish, Rooney needs to maintain this form.
Pep talk quietens downs
Defeat, 24 hours after noisy neighbours Manchester City announced the capture of Pep Guardiola as their new manager, would have been unthinkable. Pep talk might have momentarily halted in the wake of this win. But decision-maker-in-chief Ed Woodward has mis-managed Van Gaal’s situation as badly as the Dutchman has managed the team at times and the pressure remains on the club’s executive vice-chairman to sort out the managerial situation, and more particularly the succession plan, this summer.
Borthwick-Jackson can be able deputy
The local lad has benefitted from United’s full-back heavy injury list and celebrated his 19th birthday by making his third league start against Stoke. Better yet, it was his cross that set up fellow youngster Jesse Lingard for the opening goal, a fine diving header, that eased so much pressure around Old Trafford. A virtual unknown when Van Gaal promoted him to the first team squad at the start of November, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is emerging as a steady performer. Luke Shaw may have United’s left-back berth sewn up for years to come but, in Borthwick-Jackson, he might have an able deputy.