Not long after he had watched Anthony Martial coolly slot home the winning goal in time-added-on of an FA Cup semi-final, Louis van Gaal made a strange observation.
“I don’t believe he is an out-and-out goalscorer like Ruud van Nistelrooy,” the Manchester United manager said following his side’s 2-1 win over Everton.
“I like him on the wing. In the future he might change, he certainly has the ability, but at the moment I see him as a wing player,” the Dutchman concluded.
The curious use of Martial since arriving as a £37.5m purchase from Monaco this season has been one of the many talking points attached to a disappointing Red Devils campaign.
Initially bought in as a central striker, the 20-year-old quickly impressed through the middle for his new club before finding himself stuck out on the left wing as the season wore on.
Thierry Henry was one of the leading voices against such a move during a Sky Sports punditry session, yet the stubborn Van Gaal persisted with using Martial out wide.
Regardless of his position, though, the player himself has remained professional and, more importantly, productive.
Opta Joe released this stat after the final whistle of the semi-final victory against the Toffees, in which Martial had a hand in both goals.
21 – Anthony Martial has been involved in more goals in all comps than any other Man Utd player this season (14 goals, 7 assists). Talisman.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 23, 2016
That shows his ability to operate either through the middle or out wide and the impact he has had on United’s season is a huge positive for the club to take out of the campaign.
It certainly seems that while Van Gaal is in charge, the former Monaco man will be stationed near a touchline, whether another coach sees things differently should the Dutchman be replaced is another matter.
Wherever he’s played though, that man at United’s helm will have an influential star at his disposal.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.