As Erik ten Hag confirmed Manchester United’s ongoing search for a new striker, his existing ones made up for Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in a 3-0 win against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday (December 27). Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial struck first-half goals in the game at Old Trafford as United moved to within a point of fourth-place Tottenham.
However, if United’s manager is to guide his team to a top-four finish in his first season at the club, he is likely to need more firepower to cover the exit of Ronaldo, who had his contract terminated last month. Substitute Fred completed the scoring in the 87th minute — but Ten Hag was frustrated by a host of missed opportunities.
“We have to score more goals,” he said. “We created so many chances and it takes us just before the end to score the third goal. We need to take this moment earlier.”
Rashford struck his 10th goal of the season and Martial scored his fifth in only five starts to highlight their potential as a partnership. But Ronaldo’s exit following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan has left Ten Hag with limited options in attack.
United was linked with a move for Netherlands international Cody Gakpo, who was one of the standout performers at the World Cup. However, PSV Eindhoven announced it had agreed to sell the forward to United’s top-four rivals Liverpool. “I don’t talk about individual cases. We are looking for offensive players, we are looking for a striker,” Ten Hag said. “It would be good because of all the games coming, we are playing every third day and it is tough. I think we are always in the market, but it has to match the sporting criteria, but also the financial criteria. We do what we can to bring in any player we can.”
United’s attempts to bring in a top quality forward in January could be hindered by the potential sale of the club after owners, the Glazers, confirmed their willingness to consider giving up control. It is possible Ten Hag could have to explore a loan move to help bolster his forward line.
_ Three goals
_ Three points
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 27, 2022
“For the progress of the team we need to be more clinical, our players can score, you can see that,” he said. “Martial is a goalscorer, Rashford is a goalscorer, Bruno (Fernandes) will score goals. We have a lot of players who can score goals but we have got to be ruthless.”
Rashford’s form is a source of encouragement. He has now doubled his total of five goals from last season. His most prolific campaign came in 2019-20 when he hit 22 goals for United.
Martial has failed to live up to the expectations he arrived with since signing from Monaco in 2015, with fitness issues hampering his progress. Ten Hag will have to hope both players can maintain their fitness and form in the second half of the campaign if United are to secure a Champions League finish.
Chelsea is also hoping to break into the top four and ended a three-game losing streak by beating Bournemouth 2-0 on Tuesday. Chelsea had lost four of their previous five games in all competitions before the World Cup and had been winless in their previous five Premier League games.
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount struck in the first half, but an injury to Reece James just after halftime marred the win. The England right back, who missed the World Cup because of a knee injury, sparked fears of a recurrence of the problem.
(with PTI inputs)