Just nine days after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had backed Anthony Martial to prove his doubters wrong, the Frenchman performed so poorly against Southampton that Gary Neville demanded Manchester United do all they can to land Harry Kane before the transfer window closes.
The England international is not coming to Old Trafford before Tuesday’s deadline, though. Indeed, it seems he's not going anywhere now, having declared on Wednesday that he will be staying at Tottenham Hotspur despite intense interest in his services from Manchester City.
Still, there is no doubt a striker of Kane's calibre would be an improvement on the options currently available to the United manager.
Edinson Cavani has showcased his enduring quality since arriving nearly a year ago but, at 34, he is not a long-term solution to Solskjaer's attacking issues.
Martial, of course, is still only 25 but his form over the past couple of seasons suggests that he is not the answer either.
“I think the most frustrating thing about him is that he’s actually gone backwards from when he first signed,” Rio Ferdinand said on his Youtube channel after watching Martial at St Mary's.
“You look at when he hit the scene with the goal against Liverpool (in September 2015) and you think to yourself, 'Wow what have we signed here?' But he’s not really hit those heights since.”
Indeed, the forward managed just four league goals last season, and seven in all competitions across 36 appearances. Granted, he picked up an injury which saw him miss a chunk of games towards the tail end of the campaign but there was no glossing over the fact that he had underperformed.
“It was a disappointing season for him,” as Solskjaer admitted.
Sources told Goal that Martial returned to the club for pre-season happy, smiley and confident of proving his worth to the club.
Solskjaer also said the player had the "bit between his teeth" and was raring to go, leading many to think Martial 2.0 was about to be unleashed. But, his performance against Southampton served as a reality check.Getty/Goal
In the 59 minutes he was on the pitch at St Mary’s, Martial managed one shot, had just 13 touches, six passes and his passing accuracy was the lowest on the team, at 66.7 per cent.
He attempted only five passes in the opposition half; Jesse Lingard completed more despite only coming on in the 86th minute.
Martial looked utterly lost at times, which served as quite the contrast to Romelu Lukaku's demeanour in his very first appearance for Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea on the very same day.
Playing in the same No.9 role, the former United man was brimming with belief as he tore Arsenal to shreds in a comprehensive 2-0 win for the visitors at the Emirates Stadium.
Lukaku played 30 minutes more than Martial but the difference in their contribution was staggering.
The Belgium international scored, had eight shots, 43 touches and attempted 20 passes. His passing accuracy was 95%, the highest on his side, while all 17 of his passes in the opposition half found their intended recipient.
Lukaku belongs to United's past, of course, but Greenwood is very much considered the future of the club, and the real frustration lies in the fact that he wasn't chosen by Solskjaer to play through the middle against Southampton.
After all, Greenwood had posted similar numbers to Lukaku in United’s opening game of the season, a 5-1 rout of Leeds, after being deployed as a centre-forward.
He got the goal his performance deserved but it was his link-up play which really caught the eye. He had 46 touches and 25 passes, with a team-high accuracy of 88%.Getty/Goal
Martial, though, proved incapable of getting involved in United's attacks on Sunday. He managed to find Bruno Fernandes with one pass, but didn't once pick out Paul Pogba or Greenwood, who were playing either side of him.
For Solskjaer's team to thrive in attack, the Norwegian needs fluidity, with the front three regularly changing positions – and we just didn't see any of that with Martial leading the line last weekend.
What made his performance stand out even more is that St Mary’s was the scene of one of Cavani’s best displays in a United shirt last season, when he came off the bench to turn the game around with two goals in a 3-2 win.
In those 45 minutes, the Uruguayan had had more shots, more touches and more passes that Martial mustered in nearly an hour at the same ground. United's performance this time around was screaming out for a Cavani-esque intervention.
So, what next?
Wolves away is next on the agenda for United and based on Martial’s performance at St Mary’s, he will be lucky to retain his place in the starting line-up. Greenwood has shown he is a far better option through the middle and Cavani should be ready to return to the matchday squad with a full week’s training under his belt.
Summer signing Jadon Sancho is also in line to make his full debut, having been carefully managed to date, meaning there is even less chance of Martial starting.
Despite constant speculation, his long-term future at the club is not under threat right now. Goal sources say that the Frenchman has always been in Solskjaer’s plans for this season.
However, if he is to see more game time, he will need to up his game significantly. Otherwise, Martial will be looking at another disappointing season at Old Trafford.