Back in 2015, Manchester United needed a striker. They were linked with Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski as Louis van Gaal sought a solution but, late in the day, swooped for the unknown Anthony Martial. And they’re hopeful that Facundo Pellistri can be a similarly surprising success, with the 18-year-old in line to feature against Newcastle in their Premier League showdown on Saturday night.
Van Gaal left himself short in attack with days of the transfer window to go.
He’d decided against making Radamel Falcao’s loan permanent, with the Colombia international finding the net just four times during a nightmare loan spell at Old Trafford.
And he opted to cut Robin van Persie loose, despite the Dutchman propelling them to Premier League title glory under Sir Alex Ferguson just two years previously.
That summer, United were linked with just about every deadly striker in world football.
They held talks with Cavani’s entourage about a potential move to the Theatre of Dreams but, in the end, the Uruguay international considered it best to remain at Paris Saint-Germain.
Bayern Munich pair Muller and Lewandowski were also hunted but United never came remotely close to signing either, much to Van Gaal’s annoyance.
So, in the end, they signed Martial.
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News of a bid for the France international, who was at Monaco at the time, filtered through ahead of transfer deadline day. Immediately, everybody started to Google who exactly the forward was.
Martial had impressed Dimitar Berbatov at Monaco but was far from a household name, having made just 70 appearances during his time with the Ligue 1 side.
United fans had expected a Galactico and, when the 24-year-old’s arrival was announced on transfer deadline day, they were far from happy.
But, almost immediately, Martial made an impact.
The United star scored a memorable goal on his debut in front of a packed out Old Trafford, scoring in a 3-1 victory over fierce rivals Liverpool.
That quickly got supporters on side and the rest is history. He’s been a prominent member of the first team ever since, going from an unknown quantity to a proven Premier League star.
And, now, United are hoping it will be a similar story with Pellistri.
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The 18-year-old’s move to the club bares resemblances to Martial’s own. For starters he joined on transfer deadline day, arriving from Penarol in Uruguay.
Like Martial with Berbatov, he’s also got the backing of a club hero. Diego Forlan endorsed his move to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, believing the youngster has what it takes to thrive in the Premier League.
And United fans had expected a Galactico in Jadon Sancho but now must settle for the Uruguayan instead, much like how they had to contend with Martial when links to Cavani, Lewandowski and Muller were loud in volume.
While the deal for Martial was dismissed by many, with one publication even labelling him a ‘waste of money’ before he’d even kicked a ball, the club were never fazed.
United had scouted him extensively and that’s the same with Pellistri. Speaking after his arrival, Solskjaer said: “Our scouts have followed Facundo for a long time and we believe that he will be a real talent for the long term.
“Whilst we understand it will take time for him to adapt to the English game, he is capable of having an impact with his pace and ability to beat his opponent.
“Facundo has the perfect platform at Manchester United to develop and he has all of the technical qualities and the right mentality required to become a top player here.”
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“We are all looking forward to working with him to fulfil his potential over the coming years.”
Martial had Van Gaal’s support right from the off.
And it’s a similar story with Pellistri and Solskjaer, with the teenager saying: “To have the confidence of the manager is an amazing feeling and I know that working with him will be perfect for my development.
“I am coming into a squad full of great players who I will learn from every day.
“Everyone knows that Manchester United is a club that gives young players an opportunity and I am ready to work hard every day to earn those chances and prove myself in England.”
Pellistri could play against Newcastle.
And hopes are high that he, like Martial, can become a vital figure at Old Trafford in the years that follow.
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