Wednesday 24 June 2020

Clinical Martial ends seven year drought

Image may contain: 1 person, close-upApril 2013. David Cameron is Britain's Prime Minister, Duke Dumont is top of the UK charts, and the world of sport is plunged into mourning when three people are killed and 264 more injured in a terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

London was basking in the afterglow of the most successful Olympics to date, Brexit was most certainly not a thing and Azerbaijan won the 58th Eurovision Song Contest. 2013 was also a hugely significant year in Manchester United's history. It was the year that our greatest ever manager - undoubtedly the finest boss football has ever seen - rode off into the sunset after 25 years. A quarter of a century during which he turned a sleeping giant into all conquering serial winners and provided the English game with three of the greatest sides these shores have ever seen.

Whilst his last side was definitely not one of these, far from it in fact, it's still a team that an indelible mark in the final chapter of the Sir Alex Ferguson story. Winning the league by eleven points, United cantered to a 20th league title, wrapped up in that very same April of 2013 with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa through Robin van Persie's scintillating hat-trick. 2,620 days ago to be precise.

If you'd told us then that we would have a seven-year drought before another United player hit a league treble, we'd never have believed you. Yet, in one of football's most obscure but killer stats, that's exactly what happened.
Football is, of course, a team game and as long as United are making strides, winning and gunning for glory then the absence of the hat-trick hero doesn't particularly bother me. I don't really care who gets on the scoresheet or how often he does so if United are headed in the right direction. Individual feats and headline-grabbing exploits are but a footnote in my view. That said, it's always a proud moment for any player to get a match ball and scoring one for United is a wonderful moment that any player should be proud of.

Countless players have plundered braces in the intervening years, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic got a hat-trick in a Europa  tie en route to Stockholm glory three years ago. Wayne Rooney did likewise in a cup game a few years before and van Persie got another one in a Champions League tie against Olympiakos under David Moyes. Plenty have threatened, some have almost got there, but no one had managed to break the elusive duck from all those years ago. Conspicuous by absence, but certainly not un-noticed.

Until tonight that is. As Anthony Martial wheeled away in the 74th minute against Sheffield United, a semblance of a smile broke out upon his poker face and with it the realisation that the mercurial Frenchman had sealed a niche place for himself in United folklore. The first post-Ferguson man to grab that elusive hat-trick in a Premier League tie. A crucial one at that - and certainly a long time coming.

It began in the seventh minute when Aaron Wan - Bissaka's quick thinking released Marcus Rashford and he smashed across goal for Martial to pounce and steer home. The second, a minute shy of the interval, came in similar fashion.

Rashford and AWB linked up again as the former found the latter and he in turn picked out Martial to apply a harder-than-it-looked finish beyond Simon Moore to move within sight of the milestone.
Whilst nothing will ever compare with the Dutchman's brilliant volley in that game with Villa, the frustrating Frenchman - capable of delight and despair in equal measure - added the coup de grace with a stunning goal at the culmination of a sweeping team move. A delightful chipped finish over Moore from a Rashford pass put our drought to bed for the first treble of Martial's career to take him to 19 for the season.

Three chances, three goals and the crowning glory for a man enjoying his best season in front of goal since signing for United five years ago. And, finally, that stat can be put to bed.

50 million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again!

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