Martial looks like a panic buy for United
'Martial who' is the adage, as United's attack looks the thinnest in their storied Premiership history
It was hours to the transfer deadline.
Fear set in. Impulse took centre stage. The temptation to pay over the odds swelled.
And Manchester United struck.
Louis van Gaal now has teenage striker Anthony Martial in his ranks.
There was talk of Edinson Cavani and then Gareth Bale. Some said Cristiano Ronaldo could return to Old Trafford, late on Neymar was apparently on the shopping list, but the Red Devils in the end decided to make 19-year-old Frenchman Martial the most expensive teenager in world football.
United fans must be praying that this is a swoop similar to the one Sir Alex Ferguson made for a teenage Ronaldo.
No matter how one looks at the Red Devils' last-minute £36 million ($78m) buy, this reeks of panic right now.
United's current attacking force is a far cry from what the world has been used to in the era of the Premier League, which the Old Trafford club have dominated since its inception in the 1992-93 season.
When they first emerged as a force in the Premier League era in the early 1990s, their success was forged on an attacking foursome which boasted Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes up front, and Andrei Kanchelskis and Ryan Giggs flying down the wings.
It was irrepressible.
When they rose to the pinnacle of Europe in 1999, they had an irresistible phalanx of attackers.
Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole remain one of the most potent strike partnerships English football has seen, while Giggs and David Beckham provided the mojo from the flanks.
When it came Ronaldo's turn to lead the way, he was supported by Giggs, Carlos Tevez and a Wayne Rooney in tip-top condition.
Ferguson mostly got it right.
The jury is out on van Gaal, who seems to be relying on potential.
He's banking on Depay, 21, and Martial to hit the ground running and provide the championship catalyst in their first season together.
He's counting on Rooney and Juan Mata to shake off their lethargy and start performing at world-beating level.
This could so easily blow up.
Yet to earn a senior cap for Les Bleus, Martial is United's third-most expensive recruit in history.
Like most United fans, and many other football followers around the world, skipper Rooney had no idea who he was.
Football journalist Philippe Auclair said the fee left people in France "speechless".
France national team coach Didier Deschamps, however, spoke of a young man blessed with a unique combination of strength and speed.
Van Gaal needed to plug a hole in his attack, one which has so far failed to produce anything of significance.
So, he turned to Martial.
Rooney, as the spearhead of his attacking quartet, has flattered to deceive, although his supporters feel that the England captain hasn't had ample support to function at his best.
Van Gaal tried Adnan Januzaj and more recently, Ander Herrera, in the No. 10 role, without much success.
Depay and Mata, on either side of a supporting attacking trio in the 4-2-3-1 system van Gaal favours, have been largely disappointing as well.
Take out the two Champions League qualifiers against modest Belgian outfit Club Brugge, and the goal return from the Dutchman's quartet has been paltry - just two in four Premiership fixtures.
It is obvious Martial has been brought in to inject some life, and crucially, pace, into a struggling system.
He's essentially a striker who loves to drift wide.
Valencia assistant coach and former United defender Phil Neville, whose team eliminated Martial's Monaco in the recent Champions League qualifiers, believes the youngster is "a better bet than spending the same on Cavani or someone similar".
Last season, Martial scored eight goals in 31 Ligue 1 games.
Of course, he could turn out to be United's latest hotshot, as may Depay.
Van Gaal has overhauled United's attack, with Rooney the last man standing from the Ferguson era.
The Dutchman has no more excuses but to make this work.
“It was difficult to adapt to van Gaal’s style. I started very well with him and then had a couple of clashes. There came a time when I did not have a good relationship with him and that influences much in a player’s mind.”
- Former United winger Angel di Maria (above), on Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal
- Name: Anthony Martial
- Born: Dec 5, 1995
- Height: 1.81m
- Weight: 76kg
- Clubs: Lyon, Monaco
Fergie's fearsome foursomes
EARLY TO MID 1990S
- ERIC CANTONA
- MARK HUGHES
- RYAN GIGGS
- ANDREI KANCHELSKIS
This was the backbone of the team that first re-asserted their dominance in the English top tier.
With enigmatic Frenchman Cantona as the focal point, the Red Devils ended a 26-year wait for an English league title in 1993.
They won it again the season after, and began the climb up English football's pinnacle.
LATE 1990S TO EARLY 2000S
- DWIGHT YORKE
- ANDY COLE
- RYAN GIGGS
- DAVID BECKHAM
Hardly a first-choice striker at that time, Cole was rotated into the team to play Southampton in October, 1998.
It was the start of a potent partnership with Yorke, as they scored 53 goals between them to propel United to the Treble.
Add to that the wizardry from Giggs, and the magical crossing ability of Beckham, and this became the stuff of legends.
MID TO LATE 2000S
- CRISTIANO RONALDO
- WAYNE ROONEY
- CARLOS TEVEZ
- RYAN GIGGS
This was a quartet so technically gifted and fluid that they almost had no fixed positions on the pitch, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson encouraging them to rotate and switch at will.
The highlight came during the 2007/08 campaign when the club clinched their third European Cup/Champions League title.
The foursome scored 83 goals among them that season.