Is there a more prestigious position in English football than starting striker for Manchester United?
After an initial spell in the centre forward role, Martial was moved to the left wing where he then spent the majority of his United career until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over in December 2018.
When the Old Trafford legend returned as manager, he made it clear he saw the Frenchman as a central striker. That has shown with Martial featuring exclusively up front from the start under the Norwegian.
He has rewarded Solskjaer’s faith in him by returning the best goalscoring season of his career last year, scoring 23 goals in all competitions. Despite that though, United brought in Uruguayan legend Edinson Cavani to boost their options this summer.
Cavani is one of the best strikers of his generation, topping Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time top scorer charts with 200 goals in 301 games for the French giants. In his peak, he was widely considered to have some of the best movement in the game and was one of the most lethal finishers around.
He scored all types of goals too. Whether he was running in behind, towering over defenders for a header or tapping them in from inside the six-yard box, he was always in the right place at the right time.
That type of variation is exactly what Solskjaer has been demanding from his forwards since arriving. During a press conference last season, he admitted it was something they have been working on in training.
“We’re practising patterns every single week and when we get the players fit, I’m going to make Marcus and Anthony score those scruffy goals, as that’s what I did,” Solskjaer revealed last October.
While it’s worked somewhat, Martial still has a clear level above him he can reach to become the complete number nine United are so desperate for.
Cavani has been brought in not only to provide cover but also to provide competition for places. At 33 years old, Cavani is past his peak but showed he can still finish in front of goal with his first for the club against Everton when he slotted past Jordan Pickford confidently.
During his pomp with Napoli and PSG, Cavani was arguably the exact mould of striker that Solskjaer wants in his side. That experience will no doubt come in handy across the season but it could also serve as a measuring stick for Martial’s future as the starting striker.
If Martial doesn’t kick on to that next level this season, Solskjaer will surely be in the market for a replacement. Not because he doesn’t like him, but because he needs more. Cavani and Martial will no doubt be working together in training and trying to get the Frenchman closer to the level of consistency that the manager demands.
Right now, Martial is the better striker of the two. That’s not really up for debate. He’s quicker, as lethal in front of goal, a better link to the midfield and better with his back to goal. The only thing he is missing from becoming a top centre forward is the variety that has been spoken about by the manager and player himself.
Martial’s starting spot is not under immediate threat but if he lets Cavani outshine him in this campaign, it could be in the near future.