Anthony Martial’s game-winning goal against Tottenham displays that he’s responding well to the pressure after a disappointing second season at Manchester United and he’s showing great commitment to the club.
You need more than one decisive goal in a big game, but it is definitely a big boost for him, because as a player you want to contribute and as a striker the best way to contribute is to score.
He’s also responded well to Romelu Lukaku’s header, that takes some understanding and belief that your partner is going to win the ball.
It was the right moment for him to score but it’s everything that he’s done since the beginning of pre-season that is counting now.
The impact he had during the Tottenham game is due to work behind the scenes.
Martial is still learning, he’s still young, just one year older than Marcus Rashford, but as soon as he’s come on the field this season or started games he’s had an impact from assists or scoring goals.
So he’s progressing and that’s credit to him and the staff to guiding him towards these positive performances.
I’m sure there was interest from other clubs during the summer due to his diminished game time last season but he’s answered with a straightforward statement: “I’m staying, I’m going to prove I’m worth the money invested and I’m worth being a striker for United.”
Credit must also go to Jose Mourinho for bringing out the best in him. Young talented players are being praised by their parents, entourage, agents, press, big fees early on, big contracts, and sometimes they need a kick in the a*** to realise they are not the done deal yet – and that was the case with Anthony.
Will you EVER play Rashford & Martial together in the same XI, Jose?! 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Uv4MxdIdVV— Goal (@goal) October 30, 2017
He’s not the finished article at the top level, playing for United and the French national team requires more concentration, determination, involvement in the work.
That was the message when there was public criticism from Mourinho and it looks like it’s paying off because Anthony is a better player than he was last season.
You could feel last year was difficult for him – body language, frustration, everything that he was doing wasn’t going his way. But I thought this changed when I saw what he said when his future at United was being questioned by the media.
Saying something is one thing but putting the action in behind is even more important.
He did this during pre-season because that is when I was with the team, watching training and games also. You could see that he was determined to show his critics who was right and start fresh again.
Overall the Spurs match was a good result for United. It’s not always pretty football but its getting the results which is what the club wants and the fans want.
I went back and watched Victor Lindelof and Dejan Lovren’s mistakes, looked at the explanations and I think they’re a result of the same thing.
In Lindelof’s case, he was involved in the first Huddersfield goal. It wasn’t his fault as such but he’s in the mix as Tom Ince has turned him right, left and right again. He’s almost clueless as to what’s going on before Aaron Mooy scores the rebound.
Five minutes later he’s misjudging a long clearance by the goalkeeper and Laurent Depoitre scored again for Huddersfield.
Never mind him missing the header, it was a bad decision in the first place because even if he manages to direct the ball to David De Gea, it’s dangerous for the goalkeeper; the right decision was to clear the ball.
It’s psychological, as a defender you’re still thinking about your involvement in the first goal, ‘How could I have coped better?’ Lindelof didn’t live the moment, he was in the past and that’s why he didn’t make the right decision in the build-up to Depoitre’s goal.
For Lovren, it’s similar. On the first Tottenham goal, he’s tried to play Harry Kane offside but, as a left-sided centre-back, was wrong-sighted and couldn’t look along the line to check where his team-mates were. He had no clue what was happening behind him, wasn’t even looking, just assuming the guys would be with him in line and Kane ran free to score. The only defenders in that situation who could try and play offside were Joel Matip and right-back Joe Gomez.
Just like Lindelof that was early in the game and eight minutes later he’s thinking about what happened and how could he have stopped it.
Hugo Lloris’ throw caught him by surprise as he wasn’t concentrating, was dwelling on his mistake and made another one for Tottenham to score again.
It has happened to me, maybe not two consecutive mistakes, like Lovren, but sometimes when I was beaten in a challenge, I would think about and then maybe later I wasn’t ready for a similar situation.
I became conscious of that when I was at Manchester United around 2005 so started working with a mental coach.
In too many games, at the beginning of the first half I was like a tractor, it took me time to get into the game, my concentration at the game wasn’t full on.
So I started thinking about how I could improve. I hired someone and we worked together for two years and after that I was there, every moment. I would stay in the game.
Some players don’t like to work with mental coaches but it helped me be more consistent.
The overall message was: “live the moment”, you have to move on – mistakes, celebrations, everything. Only think about three things: the ball, the opponent and your team-mates.
Jurgen Klopp’s decision to substitute Lovren after 31 minutes should help him and he’s an experienced guy, he knows what is required. But it also depends on how Klopp handles it behind closed doors. The one-on-one chat he has with Lovren will be important. But it’s down to the player to take responsibility.
We played West Ham in November, 2005 soon after when George Best passed away. I got substituted after 37 minutes, not because I was directly involved in conceding a goal, but Sir Alex Ferguson felt I wasn’t in the game. Which was true. I had too much energy, I was pressing everywhere and got dragged into the emotion of the occasion. After 37 minutes, I look at the board and I’m like, “what the hell?” You feel ashamed, you feel angry but there is only one reaction – you work harder.
Lindelof will get a second chance because of the amount of games Manchester United have this year. But fans need to be patient.
When I watch him play, I feel Victor needs to work on his aggression. This isn’t Portugal anymore where he can relax in some games.
He needs to be more proactive on the field and grab the opportunity with two hands.
The club have invested a lot in him and he needs to look forward, realise he’s in a really good position to establish himself at United.
The competition between Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Lindelof is also a good one. Jose Mourinho has so many options and it should help keep Lindelof focused.
MONTELLA IN THE MIRE
Vincenzo Montella’s AC Milan are struggling in Serie A and the coach is under a lot of pressure but in his case, the football aspect is secondary.
How much longer he gets in the job really depends on the financial risk the owners have placed on not making the Champions League
If reaching the top four is an absolute must, then they may have no choice but to sack him, but if it’s not necessary then they will give him more time, which they should.
There were so many transfers into the club over the summer – too many, in my opinion – and they have essentially started from zero.
As a new player into a club, you have to adapt to the coach, the city, the language, the history. And then on the field, you have to build relationships with your team-mates.
You won’t know what sort of players they are; their strengths, weaknesses, their tendencies in certain situations. It’s going to take time. Even with a full pre-season.
This is the scenario with just one new player, now times that by seven or eight for Milan.
And then when the results aren’t happening, doubt starts to creep into everybody’s mind, and that makes Montella’s job even harder.
He needs more time. Patience is important… if Milan can afford it.
The issue of Neymar and Edinson Cavani arguing over who was going to take the penalty in Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Lyon, it was weird to see at this level.
I think we can call it ‘Penalty Gate’. Two big international players with a lot of experience. Neymar is not a kid anymore and Cavani is older, so it was surprising to see two professionals go against each other. It’s disturbing for PSG fans and also their teammates.
It shows they both have desire to score goals and put Paris on the right path by scoring the most goals they can, but it’s selfish behavior in front of cameras and the media. It’s not good for their image or the team spirit. But it looks like it’s been handled internally by the players, which is the best way.
It is a worry though. I see two things. You wonder about the penalty taker order at PSG, how it is handled. It wasn’t clear, maybe that’s what led to the altercation. Unai Emery decided who it was, it looks like it was Cavani, but Neymar decided otherwise. Number two, the penalty itself. Anybody can take one but it is a moment of concentration.
For Cavani or Neymar to go into a childish battle between who’s going to take it, it’s not the best way to prepare an attempt on goal. You don’t want to see that in the quarter-final, semi-final or the final of a Champions League so perhaps, in a way, it’s good the incident arrived early in the season. There’s enough pressure on penalty takers’ shoulders, so going through this seconds before taking the penalty, that’s why I find it very curious.
It was always clear when I was at Manchester United who was taking penalties. Number one when I arrived was Becks (David Beckham). He would take them. Then it was Ruud van Nistelrooy. Then Wayne (Rooney) or Cristiano (Ronaldo). The gaffer would always say number one and number two, and nobody would question his authority. Definitely not. No-one would dare to go against the manager. It was a different time for sure, especially with Sir Alex there. There was a clear understanding about who were the main penalty takers and it was never an issue there in my time.
PSG’s opponents on Wednesday night are Bayern Munich and for their coach Carlo Ancelotti, he’s under pressure. But he’s been under pressure at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea and PSG too. When you manage at one of those clubs you need to deliver and Bayern is no different. I think he can deal with the pressure. He doesn’t look stressed but the team have to respond to the critics and the doubts because there’s a lot of doubts.
Players individually and collectively are not in the best shape at the moment. The form of some is reflecting on the team’s performance. So the momentum is not positive going into the game. But it is an occasion where they can put everything behind them. I don’t believe in miracles though so I would expect Paris to come out on top.
As for my old club, United, they go to Russia to play CSKA Moscow and I expect them to do a professional performance with a lot of discipline. Jose Mourinho knows exactly how to set up the team for these types of games in Europe.
Romelu Lukaku talked at Everton of wanting to play in the Champions League and I expect him to thrive on this stage. That’s one step higher for him and I think he’s ready for it. In the group games I expect him to score almost every game.
It will be interesting to see how he deals with the knockout stages when he has less chances, because I still think he still needs a good amount of chances to score. He’s not been totally clinical so far. The Champions League will be the competition where he can really improve. But he’s 24 so I’m fully optimistic Romelu will deliver. Maybe not this season but the next or the one after.