Martial under big pressure to be the new Ronaldo at Manchester United
Published 01/09/2015 | 02:30
It is a statistic that fades with memories of goals in Champions League finals and countless match-winning interventions, but Cristiano Ronaldo was only able to muster 15 goals in his first two seasons as a teenager at Manchester United.
Wayne Rooney, who marked his United debut as an 18-year-old with a Champions League hat-trick against Fenerbahce following his £27m arrival from Everton in 2004, performed somewhat better than Ronaldo, delivering 36 goals in his first two campaigns at Old Trafford.
However, both players encountered peaks and troughs during their early days at United, in terms of injury and development, and the same fate is likely to await Anthony Martial who, 11 years to the day since Rooney became the world's most expensive teenager by signing for the club, now stands to claim that same distinction at United.
By moving to Old Trafford from Monaco for an initial £36m, the French youngster will arrive in Manchester bracing himself to encounter the same teenage teething troubles as his glorious predecessors, but without the safety net which helped accelerate Rooney and Ronaldo's development.
Luke Shaw, the player who Martial will eclipse as football's most expensive teenager, will attest to the difficulties that come with shouldering such a burden in such a pressurised environment as United.
With just 64 career appearances to his name, Martial (right) is undoubtedly a rookie - unknown to an English audience one minute and a household name the next.
Ronaldo arrived in similar obscurity in August 2003 as a 17-year-old, with a £12.2m price tag in a summer when David Beckham had left for Real Madrid and attempts to land a superstar in Ronaldinho failed spectacularly.
His was an underwhelming signing, with many questioning United's ambition and transfer strategy, and the same mood music is accompanying Martial's arrival.
"Ronaldo wasn't the finished article when he came here," recalled Rio Ferdinand.
"He practised all the time, sometimes taking a bag of balls out on his own after training. By the time he left, he was a machine."
Rooney, much further down the road to development than Ronaldo, still benefited from the presence of some senior statesmen alongside him.
Who will play the senior roles when Martial requires guidance on or off the pitch and, with Rooney struggling for form, who will shield the French forward from the expectation that he delivers match-winning contributions from the off?
The team and players around them ensured that Ronaldo and Rooney had time to develop into the crucial figures that they became. Martial will not get that time and Louis van Gaal is also unable to play the long game which Alex Ferguson played with Ronaldo and Rooney.
He needs an instant return from Martial so it will require immense mental strength, as well as football ability, for Martial to make the impact that his new status as the world's most expensive teenager will demand.
The space and time which he will need to grow may not be there. He will have to do it the hard way. (© Daily Telegraph, London)