Why is Anthony Martial playing on the wing for Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney

A look at Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay's performances this season - who should be Manchester United's left winger and striker?

Manchester United made a shock signing on deadline day when they splashed out a whooping £36 million on 19-year-old striker Anthony Martial from AS Monaco.  The deal could rise to as much as a staggering £58 million in time.

The youngster was relatively unheard of at the time before making an impact in his Premier League debut by scoring a fine solo goal to ensure a 3-1 victory over United's Premier League rivals Liverpool on 12 September.

Martial's exciting impact continued in his second Premier League game with two fine finishes in a 3-2 win at Southampton, meaning he'd now scored three times in only 115 minutes of English top flight action.

Having failed to score in the 3-0 thrashing of Sunderland that followed and then not getting any service in the 3-0 hammering handed by Arsenal at the start of October, Louis van Gaal has been playing the youngster out on the left wing.

This has all come since the international break - the fixtures that saw the Netherlands fail to qualify for Euro 2016.  Memphis Depay hasn't stepped foot in the Premier League since.  Punishment?  Or was he really out-of-form beforehand?  The Dutch international, also a big signing over the summer, got a 10-minute run out in the UEFA Champions League tie at CSKA Moscow a fortnight ago, and then 71 minutes in last week's Capital One Cup defeat to Middlesbrough.

Whilst Martial does have some previous experience at playing on the left wing, is he as productive out there as he has been up front for the Red Devils?  Here's what the stats say:

PositionOpponentTotal ShotsGoalsChances CreatedAssistsMins Played
ST Liverpool 1 1 0 0 25
ST Southampton 3 2 0 0 90
ST Sunderland 1 0 2 1 90
ST Arsenal 1 0 1 0 90
LF Everton 2 0 1 0 90
LF Man City 0 0 1 0 90
LF Crystal Palace 1 0 1 0 90

*ST = Striker
LF = Left Forward

Anthony Martial has scored three goals in four appearances totalling 295 minutes as a striker in the Premier League, but is yet to find the back of the net in three appearances totalling 270 minutes out on the left wing.

The French player's only assist also came when he played up top and has created three chances for teammates both as a striker and on the left wing.

 Then we shall look at how that compares to Memphis Depay when he plays on the left wing this season:

PositionOpponentTotal ShotsGoalsChances CreatedAssistsMins Played
LF Aston Villa 7 0 1 0 82
LF Newcastle 4 0 1 0 90
LF Swansea 2 0 0 0 90
LF Liverpool 1 0 0 0 45
LF Southampton 4 0 1 0 90
LF Sunderland 4 1 1 0 77
LF Arsenal 0 0 0 0 45

*Stats have been excluded from the opening game of the season against Tottenham as Memphis Depay played as the number 10.

Memphis Depay played as the left forward for PSV Eindhoven last season where he helped his side win the league as the Dutch Eredivisie's top goalscorers.  He's already accomplished in that position and at 21 years old he's a little more experienced than Martial.

The pacey forward is certainly attempting more efforts on goal than Martial does from this position, though it is well worth pointing out that Depay has hit a few outrageous efforts from far out.  Though he does only have one Premier League goal to his name, he had been getting in good goalscoring positions, notably against Aston Villa, where he should have registered a gaol.

Depay has looked much more of a goal threat in this position than Anthony Martial, and we should not be surprised given that the younger of the two players is naturally a striker.

The summer arrival from PSV Eindhoven is also creating more chances for his teammates in this role, albeit only four in his seven appearances.

Finally, let's look how Wayne Rooney is doing up front:

PositionOpponentTotal ShotsGoalsChances CreatedAssistsMins Played
ST Tottenham 2 0 2 0 90
ST Aston Villa 0 0 2 0 90
ST Newcastle 3 0 2 0 90
ST Swansea 3 0 0 0 90
ST Everton 4 1 2 0 90
ST Man City 1 0 0 0 90
ST C. Palace 3 0 0 0 90

*Stats have been excluded from games against Southampton, Sunderland and Arsenal as Wayne Rooney played as the number 10.

Many Manchester United fans appear frustrated that Wayne Rooney is starting ahead of Anthony Martial in the striker's position.

The stats don't make great reading for the United captain either - Wayne Rooney has scored only one goal in his seven appearances totalling 630 minutes as a striker this season.  This was the third goal in the 3-0 win over Everton in mid-October.

Rooney doesn't have any assists in this role, but has created his fair share of chances for teammates.

His productivity as the number 10 hasn't been much better in truth, which has got many a United fan calling for Rooney to be benched.  Many believe van Gaal is being stubborn in starting Rooney every game, seemingly only because he has the captain's armband.

Who are the potentially replacements to lead United on the pitch?  Well, Michael Carrick has only been on the subs bench a lot recently.  Bastian Schweinsteiger speaks fluent English and has experience as a captain in the Bundesliga and for Germany - does he have enough Premier League experience to fulfill this role?  Are Phil Jones or Chris Smalling potential captains?

Either way - the stats suggest Anthony Martial should be picked over Wayne Rooney to be Manchester United's striker this season.  When will this change happen?

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch