Jose Mourinho has been incredibly successful in the transfer window since being named Manchester United manager.
In his first summer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly were brought to Old Trafford.
While their input was great during their first season, and if we are to reduce their contribution to titles alone, Zlatan was the top scorer, Pogba and Mkhitaryan claimed the two goals in the all-important Europa League final, and Bailly was head and shoulders above every other central defender at the club.
In Mourinho’s second summer, he identified four signings and managed to bring in three of them. Romelu Lukaku, currently the league’s top scorer, Nemanja Matic, who has been flawless in every appearance so far, and Victor Lindelof, who is still finding his feet.
The fourth player didn’t materialise though, with United unwilling to meet Inter Milan’s asking price for Ivan Perisic. With an average of over six crosses per game in Serie A last season, three times the number the likes of Anthony Martial and Mkhitaryan managed, it is obvious why Mourinho tried to sign the 28-year-old.
With Lukaku now on the books, Mourinho clearly wanted to bring in a specialist who could put the ball on a plate for the Belgian striker.
There were rumours that Martial was set to go in the other direction, either on loan or permanently, as part of the transfer.
While the Frenchman had struggled in Mourinho’s first season in charge, the memories of the previous campaign, when he had dazzled the supporters, were still fresh enough in the minds of those attending games at Old Trafford.
There was a desperation from the fan base that one poor season wouldn’t mean the potentially fantastic future of Martial would be realised at a different club.
Perisic has made a good start to the campaign at Inter, which would have been fairly frustrating for Mourinho had players in his squad been unable to bring out the best in Lukaku. As it is, the Belgian frontman has scored 11 goals in his first 10 appearances, while Martial and Marcus Rashford have claimed several goals themselves.
United’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday was been typical of their season so far. This was the sixth occasion already that Mourinho’s side has scored four goals in a game.
Rashford was preferred over Martial in the starting line-up, as has often been the case. His skill set up Juan Mata for the first goal, when he got away from Joel Ward effortlessly and delivered an inch perfect cross in to the path of the Spaniard.
Another area of Rashford’s game that has begun to stand out is his delivery from dead ball situations too. After scoring a stunning free-kick in the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo, Mourinho revealed why he got the nod over Paul Pogba.
“Rashford is a kid who is in love with football,” Mourinho gushed.
“He stays after training for half-an-hour to practice taking free-kicks and waits for the opportunity. He trains a lot, he practices, he enjoys the extra work.”
With United 2-0 up on Saturday, the youngster stood over the ball from a tight angle and landed a perfect ball on to the head of Marouane Fellaini, who barely needed to move to score.
Martial replaced Rashford with 20 minutes to play and, just when it appeared as though Lukaku might have to make his second appearance for United without scoring, he set up the striker for United’s fourth. He also humiliated Andros Townsend with a sublime nutmeg, typifying his vision and skill, leaving the former Spurs man with his head in his hands.
In nine appearances, Martial has five goals and six assists, which works out at a goal or assist every 34 minutes he’s been on the field. Rashford has five goals and four assists for the season in 11 appearances, with him terrifying opposition full-backs as much as Martial.
There’s no respite for defenders. Before they get the chance to breathe a sigh of relief that one of these young forwards has been substituted off, depending on who has started, they see who is replacing him.
Martial picks up where Rashford left off, or vice versa, as they batter whoever plays at right-back with their incredible pace, fantastic feet and eye for goal.
Perisic no doubt would have done well for United this season, but the satisfaction felt by the fans would be nothing like the response to seeing Rashford and Martial taking the league by storm. At just 19 and 21, these two players are the future of Manchester United.