We’ve all seen the tweets, we’ve all heard the arguments. Hell, I’ve probably even been guilty of it myself in the past. Seven games into the season and there is already an argument brewing amongst United fans, ‘who is better Rashford or Martial?’
They have ranged from the basic – Martial is better than Rashford. Rashford is better than Martial – to the bizarre – Rashford only starts games because he’s from Manchester. Martial is only playing because the club paid a lot of money for him – but however it is had, the argument tends to be, from the perspective of the arguer, fact based.
Just for full disclosure, I do have a favourite out of these two players, however as mentioned this argument is very rarely held on the basis of favouritism, but that fact. The distinction might seem small on the surface but it is enormously important to make. What makes one player your favourite can have little or nothing to do with their footballing ability. My favourite United player of all time is Andy Cole, and while I would not claim he was the best United striker of all time (which wouldn’t be the most outrageous claim), how he came back from early criticism of costing us the title at West Ham in 1995, to scoring the goal that won us the title in 1999 will always resonate with me. In the discussion of Rashford and Martial, Marcus Rashford is my favourite. He is a young Mancunian boy living every young Mancunian boys dreams. As a Mancunian that resonates with me, he is my favourite of the two, but that should have no bearing on any discussion about who is better. Does that mean I think Anthony Martial is better?
R20;I love Marcus Rashford but Anthony Martial is better.”
It is such a common statement among United fans, but let us just analyse it for a moment. Better at what exactly? As we all know, football is a multifaceted sport, at its most fundamental it can be divided into attacking and defending, but there are a seemingly infinite number of subcategories: attacking with the ball; attacking without the ball; defending with the ball; defending without the ball; attacking and defending set pieces; shooting; tackling; passing; dribbling; the mental aspect of football, and so on and so forth.
Now if the question is ‘who is better at finishing?’ then at this present moment in time, the consensus opinion is Anthony Martial. If the question is ‘who is better at dribbling in tight spaces?’ again the consensus opinion is Anthony Martial. But what about the other aspects of the game? It is undeniable that Marcus Rashford has better vision in terms of his passing. It is also undeniable that Marcus Rashford is better at running without the ball, getting into some phenomenal goal scoring positions (e.g. his goal vs Chelsea last season).
We can ask who is better at any number of these footballing aspects, but as with everything in life, binary choices don’t provide enough detail. Some might argue that Rashford is only slightly better at passing than Martial but Martial is significantly better at finishing than Rashford. This is a legitimate argument. There is also a legitimate case to be made that Rasford isn’t only slightly better at passing than Martial, but also a huge number of other aspects of football too, such as set pieces, marking, springing counter attacks, tackling, tracking back etc.
So what exactly does “better” mean? Better at more footballing aspects? Expertise in a few particular footballing aspects? There is also a balance to be struck in this question. If I was asked who is better, the expert in dribbling and scoring Cristiano Ronaldo, or the all round better at more aspects Gareth Bale, there isn’t much debate on who the better player is. The only problem here is that neither Anthony Martial nor Marcus Rashford’s expertise even scratch the surface of Ronaldo at this moment in time.
The question of “who is better” seems particularly silly when you try and transpose that question to players of United past. Who is better, Ryan Giggs or David Beckham? You just wouldn’t ask that question. One was better at dribbling, one was better at crossing. One was better at tackling, one was better at set pieces. You wouldn’t ask that question about Scholes and Keane either. All of these players were at their peak, world class footballers. Just because Giggs and Beckham were wingers, and Scholes and Keane were central midfielders doesn’t mean they have to have the same attributes, and in part because of that fact it becomes impossible to say who is better.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford might currently play in the same attacking wide forward role, but just like with Giggs and Beckham, and Scholes and Keane, they are completely different, completely brilliant, and completely OURS.
Some are calling for both to be played, one on the left wing and one on the right, and while that might be the right scenario in some games, or even be our long term future, I have no idea at this moment in time. Nobody knows for sure what path Jose will take us down with these two talented youngsters, but I’m enjoying the process of finding out and no longer wasting my time on this nonsensical debate. Let’s put a line in the sand: Marcus Rashford is NOT better than Anthony Martial and Anthony Martial is NOT better than Marcus Rashford.
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