Anthony Martial goes from zero to hero to keep Red Devils on track
It may have lacked the style and finesse of his previous
goals for Manchester United , but Anthony Martial’s latest
may prove to be his most significant.
Martial, a £36million deadline day signing from Moncao,
has earned hero status among United fans with his
nerveless finishing in front of goal.
His goals against Liverpool, Southampton and Ipswich
were all executed with a clinical professionalism that
belied the France striker’s 19 years.
But his 65th-minute diving header here, to rescue a vital
point, was a classic poacher’s goal, one that has kept
United on course for the last 16.
Martial went from zero to hero, his night starting badly
when he gave away a 15th minute penalty with a blatant
handball, from which CSKA took the lead.
Shunted out on the left by Louis van Gaal for the first-
half, Martial found it hard going, as CSKA doubled up on
the teenager to nullify his threat.
But his perseverance and ability to find the right position
to get on the end of Antonio Valencia’s cross to score
proved his growing worth to United.
The goal rescued United on a night when they were below
par, certainly in the first-half, only rousing themselves
from their slumber after the break.
Van Gaal’s men were too slow in possession and there
was none of the zip and zeal that had characterised their
3-0 win at Everton four days earlier.
“present” for CSKA, although the way in which the spot-
kick was converted was cruel on David De Gea.
The United keeper produced a fine save down low to his
right to keep out Roman Eremenko’s penalty, diverting
the ball onto his right-hand post.
But the ball bounced back off De Gea and invitingly into the
path of CSKA striker Seydou Doumbia, who pounced to
convert the rebound beyond him for his eighth goal in as
De Gea had to be alert again on the half-hour, when
Ahmed Musa spun away from his marker and executed a
superb chipped effort from 30 yards out that the United
keeper did well to tip behind for a corner.
United failed to muster a chance of note in the remainder
of the first-half, Wayne Rooney getting on the end of a
deflected cross, although CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev had
the danger covered.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was hauled off at half-time, the
Germany World Cup winner hooked for being too
pedestrian in possession, although many of his United
team-mates were guilty of the same charge.
Quiet: Rooney struggled in Moscow
Marouane Fellaini came on for Schweinsteiger and there
was immediately more urgency and penetration to
United’s play, with Van Gaal’s side eventually ending up
with 72 per cent of possession in the match.
Yet the visitors were also lucky at times, never more so
than in the 53rd minute, when TV replays clearly showed
Marcos Rojo handled the ball with his left arm, although
United escaped conceding a second penalty on the night.
Rooney, starved of chances in the first-hald, sent a header
straight at Akinfeev, as United upped the tempo, before
Martial struck to atone for his earlier lapse in judgement.
Ander Herrera threaded a ball through to Antionio
Valencia, whose cross was met by Martial, his header
from 12 yards out bouncing on the ground before clipping
Akinfeev’s right-hand post and going in.
It may not have been as aesthetically pleasing as his
previous four goals for United, but if Van Gaal’s side can
make it to the knockout stage, it may turn out to be one of
his most timely.
How Group B stands
P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Wolfsburg 3 2 0 1 4 2 +2 6
Manchester United 3 1 1 1 4 4 0 4
CSKA Moscow 3 1 1 1 4 4 0 4
PSV Eindhoven 3 1 0 2 4 6 -2 3