Louis van Gaal understands what it means for any player (let alone being a youngster who is likened with Thierry Henry) to score on debut and how it feels to get your name on the scoresheet against your fiercest rival Liverpool. It means basking in a debut to savour, becoming a fan favourite straightaway, and being scrutinised with every single mistake you make from here on.
“It doesn’t get any better than that does it? Coming in, coming on and scoring against Liverpool like that” said Michael Carrick.
Van Gaal unknowingly had put the pressure on an already over-burdened shoulders of Anthony Martial ahead of the match, by claiming the projected £58.8m transfer fee that United paid to Monaco for the young kid was “ridiculous”.
And by breezing past Martin Skrtel and Nathaniel Clyne with ease before demonstrating his composure and adroitness to slot home from close range in a typical Henry-esque fashion, Martial has merely whetted the appetite. He has indeed announced himself on the big stage for the world to see it.
That goal will stay forever in the memories of the United fans, and irrespective of whether Martial turns out to be a hit or not he will forever remain a hero at Old Trafford. He has already etched his name among the greats who have had flying starts at the club. Let’s check it out.
The Real Madrid forward joined United in 2003 from Sporting for a fee in the region of £12.5m. The Portuguese was handed the #7 shirt, which was previously worn by legends like George Best, Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and David Beckham.
“After I joined, the manager asked me what number I’d like. I said 28. But Ferguson said ‘No, you’re going to have No. 7,’ and the famous shirt was an extra source of motivation. I was forced to live up to such an honour”, said Ronaldo.
He made his debut against Bolton coming on as a 60th-minute substitute at Old Trafford. He didn’t score, didn’t provide any assist, but in his short 30-minute cameo United fans fell in love with him.
“It looks like the fans have a new hero,” Sir Alex Ferguson said after the match. The boy from Madeira spent six glorious years at United, and rose to the pedestal of a club legend. It still seems like yesterday, isn’t it? Such was his impact!
Fresh from Euro 2004 exploits, the 18-year-old new Manchester United signing this on on September 28, 2004, four weeks after joining from Everton. Champions League? Big stage? Old Trafford? Pressure? How about a hat-trick to mark your presence on the European stage.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Van Nistelrooy was all set to complete his dream move to United in 2000, but series of injuries forced him to join a year later. He scored in his debut (Charity Shield) in 2-1 defeat against Liverpool. On 19th August, the Dutch striker made his league debut, and scored two goals at Old Trafford in United’s 3-2 victory over Fulham. That’s it & the rest as they say is history. In his five seasons at the club, he scored a staggering 36,44, 30, 16 (season cut short through injury) and 24 goals in all competitions, and till date very few strikers have had such a better goal-per-game ratio than him in the Premier League.
Kiko made his debut when he came on a substitute against Aston Villa on 29th March, 2009.
The Red Devils, chasing their 18th league title, entertained Villa on the back of successive league defeats. The tide was seemingly turning towards Merseyside, after Yossi Benayoun gave the Reds a breath-taking late goal winner the previous day. Liverpool could smell blood and even though Ronaldo made it 2-2, Old Trafford was getting restless as the game entered stoppage time.
Theatre of dreams cried out for something special, cried out for a hero. Enter Kiko. The 17-year-old kid, hitherto unknown to the majority, changed the destiny of the game and the fate of the title race with that one moment of sheer brilliance.
He received the ball from Ryan Giggs, pirouetted round Villa right back, Luke Young with the élan and grace of an artist, and curled in beyond the outstretched arms of Brad Friedel into the far corner.
The manner of the goal, the timing of the goal and the importance of the goal makes it so special even today. It was’t a 20-yard thunderbolt, nor a gentle tap in or a header but a flawless goal that involved a perfect blend of technique and accuracy.