Manchester United: Is Anthony Martial Key to José Mourinho's Premier League Title Hopes?

Anthony Martial still doesn't seem to be trusted enough by José Mourinho to actually start a Premier League game.

For the moment, though, the situation seems to suit player, club and manager just fine.

Martial scored again after coming on as a substitute late in the second half against Everton in United's 4-0 victory on Sunday that kept it joint top of the Premier League with cross-city rival Manchester City. The Frenchman won a penalty, then converted it, taking the kick ahead of regular penalty taker Romelu Lukaku.

Martial has made five Premier League appearances this season, starting just once. In those games, according to, he has scored three goals and assisted once. In 122 minutes of football this season, Martial averages a goal or assist every 30.5 minutes.

It's a stark contrast to last season, when Mourinho would regularly complain about Martial's performances. "We are together for almost 10 months," Mourinho said last April, as reported by The Guardian, after dropping Martial from United's match-day squad altogether. "The same way I know the players much better now, the players should know me much better. Do I think Anthony is a player with great potential? Yes, I think. Do I think he can play successfully for me? Yes, I think. But he needs to give me things that I like."

Mourinho's strategy in the league this season, for the most part, has been to use Martial late in games as a replacement for Marcus Rashford on the left wing. Far from sulking at apparently being used as a backup option, Martial appears reinvigorated. It is no less than a horrible prospect for a full back to have to face someone so skilful, quick and powerful late in a game.

The Frenchman's reemergence is surely one of the main reasons behind United's rush of late goals this season. Against Everton, as against Swansea, United labored through much of the second half before Martial, in conjunction with Jesse Lingard, added zest and energy to its attack—a Rolls-Royce burning rubber and fuel in the tractor's trail.

These are early days, of course. United's schedule in the league has been a comfortable one so far, and maybe we haven't yet had a true indication of how it performs under pressure. In Martial, though, Mourinho has a player who resembles a new signing, such is the difference from last year. Several of Sir Alex Ferguson's great title-winning teams contained supersubs—think of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or, later, Javier Hernández. Martial's second coming should worry the rest of the league.