Erik ten Hag is confident Manchester United have forwards who will score 20 or more league goals this season but the manager also wants his midfielders and defenders to contribute.
Marcus Rashford’s five goals in nine games is United’s highest tally, with Antony, Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho each scoring three times and Cristiano Ronaldo twice. United’s only other scorer is Bruno Fernandes, who has one strike in 12 appearances.
Ten Hag, asked whether he has players who can score at least 20, said: “Yes, I’m confident, mostly. In my team, there are players who will score. They come into the [scoring] position and in the last part [of the field]. It’s also about the freedom from the player, the intuition, the space they have to take. When they have that feeling then you will see that with their talent they will score that number.
“You can also divide it, because we have many goalscorers across the offensive department. But we also need something from midfield and the defensive department.”
Rashford’s buildup play sparkled in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League victory against Omonia Nicosia though his finishing disappointed. “He did a lot of things well but finally he knows that he has to be more clinical and he has to score a goal,” Ten Hag said. “When you have such good movements and make such good combinations, good actions, then you have to finish. I know sometimes it’s the game, it’s not your night and it’s about the form of the day but it can change in another game.
“He’s in a really good run, that shows in the chances he creates. Now it’s in the last two games he’s been a little unlucky. On Sunday [at Everton] he deserved a goal but they cancelled it [for a handball]; today he didn’t score. I say save it for the coming week.”
United host Newcastle on Sunday, then Tottenham on Wednesday before Saturday’s visit to Chelsea. “These are real tests for us as a squad to go into battle,” Ten Hag said. “And it delivers energy. Newcastle do really well. It’s a team who can play in high intensity with a lot of energy and that makes it a tough opponent. We know we have to play our best.”
In midfield Ten Hag can choose from Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen, Casemiro and Fred. He is yet to settle on his best combination. “It’s difficult to say in this moment,” he said. “They have to play longer together but what’s important is that we need a squad. Fred played a good game [against Omonia]. We have some combinations and in the midfield it’s always about balance. I’m happy with all four and hope they keep going this way.”
Martial faces a fitness test but Harry Maguire’s hamstring requires more time to heal. “Next week he’ll be back in training or after next week,” said Ten Hag.