A former Red Devil has compared the Frenchman’s career trajectory to his own, while insisting “he can only get better” as he edges towards his prime
Anthony Martial is like Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo, but still “needs to learn his trade”, according to Dwight Yorke, who says the Manchester United star needs more time to adjust to the number nine role at Old Trafford.
Martial finished the 2019-20 season as United’s top scorer across all competitions with 23 goals to his name, having been one of the most prolific strikers in the Premier League since returning from lockdown in June.
The 24-year-old’s contribution in the final third helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to a third-place finish in the top flight and three semi-finals, but he has still been regularly criticised for his chance conversion rate.
The Frenchman was guilty of wasting a number of clear openings during the Red Devils’ 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in a last-four Europa League tie on Sunday, and it has been suggested that Solskjaer will need to bring in a natural centre-forward to bring a frustrating trophy drought to a close.
Yorke sympathises with Martial after seeing him shifted into the “hardest position you can play”, and still thinks he is capable of following in the footsteps of Premier League legends if he is afforded enough patience.
“A number nine is a very unique position. It’s a very rare breed, and it seems like it’s gone out of the game a bit,” the former United frontman told talkSPORT.
“I never considered myself as a number nine. I developed my skills playing from the left wing to the right wing and then found myself pretty much playing in that number nine position, but not really as a number nine.
“It’s a specialist position and probably the hardest position you can play, with your back to goal and having to hold off defenders and make runs; you can only get better in that position if you play week-in, week-out.
“Look at the top goalscorers in the Premier League: Robbie Fowler, Ian Wright, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole – those players only played just in that position.
“Anthony Martial is like myself, Thierry Henry, maybe Wayne Rooney and even Cristiano Ronaldo – starting on the wing, developing and improving their skills and then get to that number nine position. That’s what Martial is doing now.”
Yorke added: “I think Martial will get better, but he needs to play in that position a lot more, He needs to learn his trade.
“These guys are in their early 20s, I didn’t play as a centre-forward until I was around 24 and if you look at Henry and those guys, they all get to that position around the same age. So it’s a work in progress.
“I understand Man United are there to challenge and they need to bring in players, of course, but the players they have are excellent, and it’ll be interesting to see how Ole will develop those players and use them.
“Ole was a frontman himself, so he should know how to improve these players. And look at how many goals Martial has scored this year – he can only get better!