The fervour surrounding Anthony Martial among the Manchester United faithful at the moment really is something special.
The Old Trafford public are usually pretty shrewd judges and there appears to be a growing belief that the sky is the limit for the fabulous Frenchman. In Moscow, his name was chanted during the UEFA Youth League tie ahead of the main event against CSKA. During the Champions League tie itself, there was a prolonged airing of his song during the half-time break.
On home turf, Marcus Rashford was selected on the left flank for the visit of Crystal Palace and, during the first real attack of the game, did brilliantly in beating Joel Ward to tee up Juan Mata’s early opener. The England international followed it up with a driven free-kick for Marouane Fellaini to head home a third on the day before making way for Martial for the last 20 minutes or so.
There was a deserved ovation for Rashford but also a rousing reception for the substitute, who had already been cheered to the rafters every time he warmed up along the touchline. The fans appreciate both players are in top form and providing excitement every time they step on the field.
Sat in the Stretford End, there was a real buzz when Martial was brought on to torment an already well-beaten Palace side. It brought back memories of when Cristiano Ronaldo was on the bench during his first season at the club, with a sense of genuine expectation spreading through the stand. His first involvement was to trick Andros Townsend with an outrageous nutmeg that bordered on being cruel and, every time he received the ball, the anticipation was palpable.
The 21-year-old’s display against Burton Albion in the Carabao Cup had whetted the appetite as an individual performance to savour. This time around, he was only denied a sixth goal of the season by Wayne Hennessey’s smart save, from Ander Herrera’s fine through ball, but he managed to rack up another assist by setting up Romelu Lukaku’s late fourth.
Martial has always been hugely popular, scoring a key goal against Liverpool on your debut is always going to endear yourself to the United fans. Yet the current buzz surrounding the forward has been ratcheted up to a whole new level. Jose Mourinho’s men have been thrilling to watch but there is a sense that Martial is on the brink of taking his game to the next level.
With more challenges to come in October, starting at Anfield next time out, there will be the hope that the expectation and hype is justified. A recall for France should also be in his sights and, despite their embarrassment of riches, he could soon be impossible to overlook.
During the height of the silly season, during the transfer window, there were tabloid reports of Tottenham tabling a £25million bid for his services. Whether it was ever true or not it would surely be a criminal (and laughable) under-valuation of such a gifted young talent.
Fifty million down the drain? Fifty million’s a bargain.