Will Martial get his January wish to leave Man Utd?

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Ralf Rangnick has been in charge at Manchester United for less than two weeks, but it is already clear that he has no time for playing games.

Three days after Rangnick phoned Paul Pogba, for example, the France midfielder was back in the country having spent the previous few weeks in Dubai undergoing rehabilitation for his thigh injury.

The new interim boss at Old Trafford believed that Pogba should be doing his recovery work in Manchester, while he was not interested in getting into discussions over the France international's as-yet unsigned new contract either.

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The message was clear: if Pogba, or any other player, does not want to be at the club, Rangnick will not be going out of his way to persuade them to stay. 

It is a message that will likely have been heard by Anthony Martial.

Martial's agent, Philippe Lamboley, told Sky Sports on Friday that his client is looking for a January exit from the Red Devils.

“Anthony wishes to leave the club in January,” Lamboley said. “He just needs to play. He doesn’t want to stay in January, and I will speak to the club soon.”

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At this stage, there has been no formal transfer request submitted by Martial, and Rangnick is not interested in chasing the player to see whether he actually wants to stay.

Martial, for his part, has not been in contention to appear in any of Rangnick's three games in charge due to a "painful knee", but overall the season so far has been a far cry from the campaign the ex-Monaco forward believed he was going to have when he embarked upon pre-season training in July. 

The straight-faced attacker has earned a reputation around United for rarely being able to crack a smile, so much so that it has become a joke that even the club’s in-house social media team has used on Twitter. Despite that, sources suggested to GOAL that he actually came across a more relaxed and happier figure than usual during the club’s summer training sessions.

His mood, though, has since deteriorated, as the decision to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club late in the summer transfer window left Martial under no illusions as to how the Portugal icon's return would affect his own chances of first-team minutes.

So far this term, he has made only 10 appearances in all competitions, with just four of those coming as a starter. Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani are all ahead of him in the pecking order, while Rangnick has been keen to give opportunities to teenage duo Anthony Elanga and Amad Diallo too.

You can understand, then, why he would be eyeing the exit door, especially given the World Cup is less than a year away and right now it would be difficult for Didier Deschamps to justify selecting him for Qatar 2022.

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But whose fault is it that he has fallen so far down the pecking order?

Martial's lack of consistency has been a frustration for coaches and supporters alike, while sources have said that some members of United's staff are concerned with the way he "turns it on and off" in both training sessions and matches.

Many believe there is a world-class player lurking somewhere inside Martial, but he is now 26, and after a good season in 2019-20, where he scored 23 goals in all competitions, he has returned to the mediocre form that has plagued his time at United.

Last season, where he did admittedly suffer from injuries, he finished with just seven goals from 36 appearances. Is it any wonder he was not considered as first choice under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

Solskjaer may not have helped the situation, as the Norwegian regularly looked to protect his players from the media by bending the truth when it came to the reasons why they were not being selected.

Such an instance came in October, when Solskjaer claimed that Martial's absence from the squad was injury-related, only for Melanie Martial - Anthony's wife - to take to Instagram and claim otherwise by posting a picture of her husband using an exercise bike at home.

Regardless, Martial has not shown enough when he has been on the pitch to suggest that he deserves more playing time and that United should be doing all they can to keep him at the club.

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The problem comes with who would want to buy him. Martial signed a new contract in 2019 to keep him at the club until 2024, with the option for a further year included, and United will not want to let him go on the cheap.

It has become a common theme in recent years for United to tie players down to expensive, long-term deals and then struggle to offload them when they become surplus to requirements or want to move on, and Martial looks set to follow that pattern.

Rangnick has already made it clear he would be open to loan moves for some players when the winter market opens, while if the right offer were to come in for a player who is making it clear, through his agent, that he does not want to be at the club, then they would be open to listening. 

“We need to make sure that players want to stay here,” Rangnick said last week. “If they are still not getting enough game time here, it might make sense to speak individually with the players and see if a loan might make sense. But now it's still too early to speak about that.”

Martial may, then, get his Christmas wish, and if he truly does want to leave and a fair price is agreed, then few at United would be too concerned if he were to depart.