Erik ten Hag has said he wants to sign another top striker to ensure Manchester United don’t miss out on Champions League football and hinted he sees Anthony Martial as his first-choice centre-forward choice in his current team.
Martial scored in United’s 4-2 Carabao Cup win over Aston Villa on Thursday, but it was just the Frenchman’s second start in a season injured.
And manager Ten Hag, who has also used both Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo as a centre-forward, has hinted the top scorer in football history is now the third in line to operate as a No.9 .
Ten Hag lamented that he was unable to bring on Martial for much of the campaign, which he believes could cost United a top four spot, saying: “The player availability concerns us. We had so many games, like [the 0-0 draw against] Newcastle United, [when] Marcus Rashford [was] sick. We’ve had to play other games where we have to improvise to build a good offensive line.
“If you can’t do that then it’s really difficult to get into the top four, if you don’t have the players to build a good offensive line. We need players available and at the highest level in the first line.
Asked if that meant buying someone or relying on the players United already had, he replied: “Both, but look in the squad first.”
Martial excelled in pre-season for Ten Hag and scored four goals in just 220 minutes of football in the campaign and the former Ajax manager believes he suits his style of play.
“Certainly he plays very well in many aspects of football, I’m happy with that except his availability,” Ten Hag explained. “But we also have others and we played with Marcus Rashford as a No.9. We also have Cristiano Ronaldo so we have more options there.
“It’s pretty clear in the way I play, I like Anthony Martial’s type because he can hold [up] the ball is a target, he can chain, he can also run behind, he has speed, he can finish and he is a good presser.
“I’m so happy he’s back now and we can manage him and keep him fit because he’s an important part of the team.”
Donny van de Beek has started United’s last three games, his longest spell with the team in three seasons at Old Trafford, but without much impact.
The midfielder, who played for Ten Hag at Ajax, was borrowed by Everton during the January transfer window last season but the manager sees no reason to let him go for another short spell term elsewhere as he challenged Van de Beek to either prove himself at United or go for good.
He added: “I don’t think the loan makes sense. It’s either he fights and proves himself in this environment or he goes, but for me there is still a way for him.
Bruno Fernandes remains United’s regular number 10 and Ten Hag thinks it will be difficult for Van de Beek to earn a place, saying: “But it won’t be easy for him because the competition there is really strong.”