Transfer Talk: Rangnick appears set to show Martial exit door
After being absent from a threadbare Manchester United squad at Aston Villa last weekend, Anthony Martial’s days at Old Trafford appear to be numbered.
The French forward angrily denied claims from Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick that he refused to travel for the fixture, suggesting tensions are high between player and manager.
Ahead of United's trip to Brentford tomorrow, we ponder how things got so bad for 26-year-old Martial and consider where he could end up if relations do not improve.
Over six years have passed since Martial arrived at Old Trafford as a fresh-faced 19-year-old — and his spell has been somewhat of a rollercoaster.
With 56 goals in his 174 Premier League appearances to date, the forward has notched at a respectable rate even if his returns have been a little erratic.
On a good day, Martial’s blend of blistering pace and a lethal finishing touch has proven too hot for even the division’s best defenders to handle.
Only two seasons ago, he netted 17 goals and laid on six assists in just 31 Premier League starts under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But the fact those totals were backed up by just four goals and three assists last term does rather sum up his time in Manchester.
Starved of action
In fairness to Martial, he was limited to just 22 league appearances, with only 17 of those starts — largely down to a ruptured knee ligament that curtailed his campaign last March.
When coming back from such a serious injury, rediscovering top form can take time for any player and that is a luxury the Frenchman has simply not been afforded due to United’s ongoing struggles.
Martial has seen barely three hours of top-flight action this term — and not a single minute since Rangnick’s arrival.
Initially, it appeared injury issues were again at the root of the issue but press speculation has intensified regarding the forward’s discontent in recent weeks.
Things finally came to a head last weekend prior to the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.
After Martial was not present in a United squad that included only eight substitutes, two of which were goalkeepers, questions were always going to be asked — and boss Rangnick pulled no punches.
Quizzed on Martial’s omission, the German said: "Yes, he didn’t want to be in the squad.
"He would’ve been in the squad normally but he didn’t want to and that’s the reason he wasn’t travelling with us."
But Martial quickly took to Instagram to refute the claims. He said: "I will never refuse to play a match for Man United.
"I have been here nearly seven years and have never disrespected and will never disrespect the club and its fans."
The war of words merely left things more unclear than ever — though it does make a move away look increasingly likely.
If Martial is indeed available, there will be no shortage of interest in his services from clubs both in England and abroad.
LaLiga outfit Sevilla are thought to be extremely keen on a loan move, though it is believed they have been put off by United’s wish to have his £200,000-per-week wages paid in full.
Closer to home, both Newcastle and Tottenham have also enquired about a temporary switch — but transfer guru Fabrizio Romano says the player would prefer to go abroad.
That leaves Serie A side Juventus and Catalan giants Barcelona at the front of the queue, with both supposedly willing to put up the required funds to make a deal happen.
Should a suitable offer come in, indications are that United will not block a deal — though that does not mean things are cut and dry just yet.
Even though the situation looks bleak, Martial’s Old Trafford story may still have a few more chapters left to be written.
While clearly there remains a difference of opinion between Rangnick and Martial, reports have suggested the German has already held face-to-face talks to clear the air.
United officials are supposedly unwilling to budge on their financial demands for any exit deal, which means there is still a possibility of Martial staying put beyond this month.
Someone as experienced as Rangnick knows it is better to ease tensions in case a move does not materialise and perhaps offer his marksman one final crack at redemption.
With two games in four days coming up this week and other forward players still nursing injuries, perhaps letting Martial do some talking on the pitch is a risk worth taking.