Van Gaal keeps lid on Martial hype

LOUIS van Gaal admits that he faces a battle to manage the expectations growing around Anthony Martial after the striker took his tally to three goals in his first three Manchester United games.

Martial followed his debut goal against Liverpool with a double in the 3-2 victory at Southampton that moved United up to second place in the Premier League table on Sunday.

The forward arrived at Old Trafford following a £36 million (S$78.6 million) move from Monaco at the end of the transfer window.

Yet, while there were doubts expressed about the size of the price tag, Martial has wasted no time making an impact.

"Anthony Martial is already special because we paid a lot of money for him. A lot of people are thinking he is a great star but he is a boy of 19. In three matches he has shown a lot," said United manager van Gaal.

"I am very happy with him but we and he have to keep our feet on the ground."

Van Gaal admitted the youngster will need time to settle into his new surroundings.

"He has the talent," said the United manager. "When you are 19 years old, you cannot expect consistency. Emotionally they shall have a lot of dips.

"He adapts to the system of how we want to play. He scores goals. That is the most important thing.

"He can improve, I think, but he has a high level of talent. He shows it. He shows it under great pressure and that is maybe his greatest talent."

Before Martial moved from cash-strapped AS Monaco on the final day of the transfer window, United had failed to score more than one goal in any of their opening four league games and were looking in vain to Wayne Rooney for inspiration.

Six goals in the subsequent two matches have helped gloss over the fact that the United and England captain is without a Premier League goal since the start of April.

And with Dutchman Memphis Depay, 21, proving another exciting attacking acquisition after joining from PSV Eindhoven, the club appears to have recovered some of the youthful flair previously associated with Old Trafford.

Martial scored twice after Graziano Pelle put Southampton ahead, with Juan Mata adding United's third before Pelle headed a late second.

Mata's goal came after a 44-pass move the United manager called "unbelievable".

"Fantastic," said van Gaal of the move. "With that amount of passes, you control the game. I always say to the players that the gaps in the defensive organisation shall exist when you play a kind of positional game. We did it today and I was very pleased of course, it is confirmation of our philosophy."

A mistake from Maya Yoshida led to Martial's second and Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said: "I hate always players, in general not criticising Maya, who pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, play it into the space in front."

He added: "There were several moments in the game where you put the pressure on them. We saw the weaknesses of Manchester United today, defensively."

But van Gaal took issue with the suggestion that United were flawed at the back.

"Have you seen the goal average against, also last season. All the media was writing the defence is very bad, but at the end we were third in the Premier League."

Responding to Koeman's claim that United displayed defensive weaknesses, he added: "This is also remarkable, that he says that."