Anthony Martial's contract offer shows where power lies at Manchester United
There is seldom a dull moment when it comes to Anthony Martial.
The 22-year-old forward has been offered a new five-year contract at Manchester United, almost doubling his basic wage to £130,000 a week, despite being a peripheral player and making it clear that he wants to leave. Earlier this year, the popular Martial told teammates in private that he wanted out, while his agent announced it publicly.
Fans, who had long supported the French international, were divided. They had mocked in song the "English press" who said Martial had "no chance" after he arrived from Monaco for £36 million in 2015, yet his recent form suggested the naysayers actually had a point.
Martial and Jose Mourinho could have a better relationship. The United manager fined the player two weeks wages because Martial did not keep in touch with the club following the birth of his second child in July, for which he left a preseason tour in the U.S. to attend. He felt slighted by the fine.
Aside from that, Martial wants to play more and feels that he has been singled out for making mistakes, which are more inclined to happen when a big part of your job to beat opponents. Mourinho winces on the sideline when Martial loses possession and feels that his attitude could be better.
Although he has only played in one game this season -- the forgettable 3-2 defeat at Brighton -- five years from now Martial will be 27 and, in theory, at his peak. Meanwhile, there are plenty who don't think Mourinho will be at the club in five months, let alone years.
The offer of a new deal, in addition to Martial's current contract, which could last until 2020 if United activate a 12-month option -- they usually do in such scenarios -- shows who has the power at Old Trafford: Ed Woodward. The executive vice-chairman has vetoed any sale, though there was hardly a queue of suitors during the summer.
The nature of players leaving -- or trying to leave -- is shifting. If Sir Alex Ferguson was not happy with someone then his attitude was "nobody is bigger than the club." Because of that, greats like David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane departed United.
However, football has changed and contracts are not just given as a reward, but to stop players leaving for free. Clubs are more reluctant to let talents exit because they are so hard and so expensive to replace; there is no obvious replacement for Martial.
Meanwhile, there is also almost always a way back for players who want out; most notably, in United's case, Wayne Rooney in 2013 and David De Gea two years later, even if neither went public with their desire to move. Fans do not like it when it seems their club is not good enough, but what can you do about it? Players are ambitious and, if they see better opportunities elsewhere, they pursue them.
Players can also come back into favour after falling out of it. Luke Shaw's United future has looked bleak several times, yet the club stuck by the left-back and he has been their best performer so far this season, form that has seen him earn an England recall. Having watched him struggle vs. San Jose in July, that is a pleasant, yet deserved, surprise.
Shaw and Martial might be maligned by their manager, but as a pair could become a threat down the left side, however unlikely that seems at present. Just five months apart in age, they have years ahead of them and they have the talent.
But while Martial would have a point if he feels he can outlast his boss at the club and then show his full potential, Mourinho should not be painted as the bad guy; he has given plenty of chances. Former United striker Brian McClair points out the issues at play.
"[Martial] is a very good player but he doesn't work hard enough," McClair said. "Whether that's because he needs to play more games in a row to have better performances, I don't know. It was a huge negative to be left out of a [France] which then goes on to win the World Cup.
"Sometimes a player's mind is made up and mentally he's not there," McClair continued. "You just have to move him on. Do you leave them moping about in the first-team dressing room? Do you put them in the second team and affect the humour in the second? It's a difficult one. It's not for the chief executive to decide whether a player is going to be happy or not. That's the coach's job."
Underlying everything is the fact that Woodward, who oversaw the signing of Martial after sending head of corporate development Matt Judge to Paris and Monaco to do the deal, wants him to be a success. Martial fits United's profile as an exciting, young, attacking player, who has already proved that he has the talent to excel at the top level.
That ability has been evident at United since he marked his debut with superb goal against Liverpool, but not seen often enough. He is a great player on his day -- fast, explosive, direct -- but those are few and far between. Like many others at Old Trafford, he has to be more consistent.