Manchester United icon Denis Irwin has backed Anthony Martial to fire for United this season – but admits the striker is facing a crunch season as the Frenchman bids to save his Old Trafford career.
Martial has struggled to hit the heights expected of him following his £36m arrival from Monaco back in 2015.
The 25-year-old forward netted just four goals in 22 appearances last season – a return that has led to uncertainty surrounding his long-term future in Manchester.
United have been linked with a move for an elite striker all summer, and talk of a move for Erling Haaland next year refuses to go away.
Irwin admits that Martial has "bags of ability" but will need to deliver in what is a "big, big season for him".
"He’s got bags of ability, we know that," Irwin exclusively told Daily Star Sport. "I don’t know if he’s fully fit yet, so it might take him one or two games to get up to speed but it is a big, big season for him.
"He missed the Euros with France which was a big disappointment for him. He missed the last couple of months [of last season] with United and really they could have done with him. Once he gets a few games under his belt he’ll be fresh."
Martial is set to get the nod to lead the line for United in this weekend's crunch Premier League opener with rivals Leeds.
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But he is far from assured a regular starting berth – even with Edinson Cavani being granted extended leave following the Copa America this summer.
"There’s plenty of competition in there; Cavani I suppose is the centre forward at the moment and Mason [Greenwood] will want to play centrally a bit more," added Irwin, who was speaking on behalf of Ecolab, Manchester United’s new hygiene and disease prevention partner.
"It’s a big year for Mason, he burst on the scene a couple of years ago and had a bit of a slow-burner last year, but he finished the season really, really well. I think a lot of people are excited to see more of him, and he’s still very, very young.
"We’ve got an exciting young attacking team with some good experience too.
"You throw [Jadon] Sancho into the mix as well as Dan James. They’ll be a year older, a year wiser and I’m looking forward to that link-up play."
The £73m capture of Sancho, in particular, has Irwin excited ahead of the new season.
The 21-year-old England ace registered a remarkable 38 goals and 51 assists in just 108 Bundesliga games during his four-year spell at Borussia Dortmund.
"Sancho is a big signing for us. Looking at how many goals and assists he’s got in the Bundesliga is exciting. Dietmar Hamann has said some really good words about him, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him play. It’s really good business getting him."
Ecolab is a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention services, providing hospital disinfection and cleaning solutions for Old Trafford. 1770 hand hygiene stations will be available for fans this season. Please more find information on the Ecolab Manchester United site #CleanMatters
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