Football

Anthony Martial’s striking show against Sheffield United hailed

Frenchman becomes first Red Devil to score an EPL hat-trick since van Persie in 2013

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saluted Anthony Martial's improved killer instinct after his hat-trick fired Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Sheffield United yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Martial struck twice in the first half and completed his first senior treble after the interval at Old Trafford.

The France forward is the first United player to score an English Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie's treble against Aston Villa in 2013, during the halcyon days under Sir Alex Ferguson.

United's first win since the Covid-19 hiatus was well deserved and Solskjaer suggested Martial's role in it was down to hard work on the training ground.

"Very happy for Anthony. The third goal was a great goal, but for me the first and the second were better," the Norwegian was quoted by AFP as saying.

"He's in the box, ready to go. We have worked on that, getting in the box in that situation more often.

"At the near post he showed composure. The first goal was vital, the way he turns and gets himself into a position to score from the cross.

"I'm very pleased with that."

The 24-year-old has 19 goals in 36 matches in all competitions for United, a career high. His first two goals were predatory penalty-box finishes from low crosses from the right by Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

His third was pick of the bunch, as he sent a dinked shot over Simon Moore after a lovely through-ball by Rashford.

Solskjaer has persisted with Martial in the No. 9 role this season, even selling Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan.

The former AS Monaco man is seen by some pundits as more of a wide attacker than a centre forward, but Chris Sutton believes his performance against the Blades had glimpses of Ruud van Nistelrooy - who scored 150 goals in 219 games for United.

The former Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea striker, who won the EPL's Golden Boot in 1997/98, wrote in his Daily Mail column: "Is Anthony Martial the No. 9 Manchester United have long since craved? He certainly looked like it here.

"It is one game... but there were encouraging signs, especially the nature of his first two goals.

"They were typical finishes of a No. 9... I've always worried about his instinct in the box and thought he played on the back foot too much, but these goals were what you'd expect from a Ruud van Nistelrooy type."

Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jamie O'Hara, however, is not convinced that Martial is United's striking solution.

He said on talkSPORT: "For me, the jury is still out on him in terms of whether he can be the No. 9 at Man United who is going to go on and be a legend and win them trophies...

"I think the missing piece in that United team, even though Martial is a fantastic player, if they did sign someone like Harry Kane, then you are talking about a team that wins the title again."

Ex-Liverpool captain and manager Graeme Souness, meanwhile, believes Martial can learn from teammate Rashford.

He said on Sky Sports: "We know he is class, he has everything to be a top, top player.

"If he could just have the same enthusiasm as Marcus Rashford for the game.

"Sometimes he hides it, sometimes he doesn't seem interested. Maybe he needs to score early to stay interested."

United sit fifth in the table, level on points with sixth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers in the race for a top-four spot.

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