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Ighalo could improve United as Martial is offering nothing

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Anthony Martial falls to the ground under pressure from Romain Saiss on a frustrating day for the Manchester United man. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Anthony Martial falls to the ground under pressure from Romain Saiss on a frustrating day for the Manchester United man. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Getty Images

Anthony Martial falls to the ground under pressure from Romain Saiss on a frustrating day for the Manchester United man. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

There was much bemusement when it was announced on transfer deadline day that Odion Ighalo was on his way to Old Trafford.

Gary Neville was not alone in finding it astonishing that a recruitment department which Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, boasted had scouted more than 800 right-backs before signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, had so little up its sleeve that it had ended up signing on loan a striker who, in his past 15 appearances in England had delivered zero goals.

Yet, watching United labour in the goalless draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers, it was not hard to conclude that, bloated as he might be after spending three years in the Chinese Super League, the former Watford man could be an improvement on what the club have.

"He'll offer us something different," said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the United manager, of Ighalo, who will cost a staggering £4m in loan fees and wages for his three months.

Which is rather more than the incumbent of the United No 9 shirt offers.

Because, right now, Anthony Martial offers nothing.

Solskjaer's season has been hamstrung by the continued absence through injury of Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, his three brightest outfield players. But the manager has hardly been helped by the fact that the man he needs to step up in a crisis and lead the line has almost entirely disappeared from view.

Martial was on the teamsheet on Saturday, but it would be misleading to suggest he was in the team.

In the dying moments, when United were in need of a goal to improve on the woeful return of nine wins in their past 30 Premier League outings, Wan-Bissaka finally managed to send a cross into the box that evaded the first defender. But the only person there to meet it was Diogo Dalot, the reserve right-back who had come on as a substitute, but he spooned the chance wide. Far from busting a gut, Martial, was on the edge of the area, watching events unfold.

Whatever the evidence, Solskjaer, was loath to engage in any public criticism. "Well, we'll give him more support, give him rest when he deserves it, because if he does have that rest, if he plays a little bit less, because he's been asked to play too much as well, especially now when Marcus is injured," he said.

"As a striker, if you don't just get there that split second, that's a massive difference, and I've praised him, and I know that he's tired, but he's never ever dodged a training session. He's training, he's available for every game, so I'm delighted."

We must accept the manager's analysis of his player's physical condition.

Yet it was hard to fathom on Saturday how Martial could be exhausted given that his contribution to the game was so limited.

Bruno Fernandes, whose debut suggested he was precisely the kind of determined character United so desperately lack, spent much of his first outing looking ahead in the hope his forward might make a run he could feed. But none appeared.

United are about to enjoy a break in the Spanish sun, before returning to the increasingly forlorn pursuit of a Champions League place that was once the bare minimum of their seasonal objectives. With McTominay, Pogba and Rashford not set to be back until closer to Easter, Solskjaer needs something where he is getting nothing. Maybe Ighalo will deliver. But it would be unwise for United fans to hold their breath. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk