Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, speaking after the 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg, after losing 3-2 on aggregate talked about wanting a striker who “wants to break their nose” to score goals for the club. United have been struggling for goals for a while, even when Romelu Lukaku was at the club – the overall mentality from the periods of success had not continued with the club into the future, or at least that is the way I see it.
The injury to Marcus Rashford, who has scored 19 goals in all competitions this season, was a big blow. Granted he was not the main striker in the team, with Anthony Martial playing that role, but in terms of what he offered, he is going to be a massive miss until he is fully fit once again, which may or may not come before the end of the season. Even with Rashford in the team, the forward line was very light to begin with and needed strengthening.
United, in effect, had no main striker in the team. It has been said for a long period of time that Martial was the main striker in the team despite the fact he was playing as a left-winger for much of his time at United, despite periods when he led the line due to injury – it was because of Martial’s injury that gave Rashford his chance in the team, which was a good thing. This season though, Martial seems terrible leading the line. He hardly ever seems to be in the right positions to score goals.
Martial has 12 goals to his name in all competitions this season, also assisting a further five times in all competitions. It may be classed as a good run of goals but looking at the rest of the Premier League clubs, they have players who have a much better goal rate, which shows United are no way near being that goal scoring team and clearly need a striker that will hit more than he misses, which seems to be the case with Martial this season. It is a worrying time for United, something they need to solve.
Many supporters of the club have criticised Martial in his time at the club. He started well, making his first appearance for the club about a fortnight after signing back on deadline day in 2015, scoring on his debut at Old Trafford against Liverpool. That season (2015/16) he scored 17 goals, assisting a further nine. The following season (2016/17) he managed just eight goals and eight assists. During the 2017/18 season, he scored 11 goals and nine assists, which sent him in the right direction.
In the 2018/19 season, which saw the departure of Jose Mourinho and the arrival of Solskjaer, Martial scored 12 goals, adding three assists – matching the number of goals scored this season and beating his assist from last season. Granted, Martial has improved but in terms of being the leading man, he’s not the right option. Solskjaer is right to be seeking to bring in a striker that will do more to score. It will help the development of Martial, Rashford and even Mason Greenwood.
18-year-old Greenwood has 10 goals and four assists whilst playing for the first team this season, which shows the talent the lad has to make it in his first season where he has been trusted a lot more in an advanced role. He has played 1,480 minutes of football, averaging a goal every 148 minutes or a goal contribution every 106 minutes. When you look at the contribution of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, you see a positive based on what they have achieved at the club this season.
Rashford has 19 goals and five assists, Martial has 12 goals and five assists, and Greenwood has 10 goals and four assists. That is 41 goals and 14 assists – which for a forward three is a good contribution for the season so far but more needs to be done to fire United to where they want to be this season – finishing in the top four of the Premier League, therefore earning a UEFA Champions League place next season. The only other way to achieve that will be to win the UEFA Europa League.
United added Bruno Fernandes to the squad during the January transfer window, which adds creativity to the midfield, providing he plays in a more advanced place in a formation or the formation is changed from a predominant 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 or something similar. United though will need to be better played with injuries as Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are missing right now, which affects the quality available in midfield. When they are fit, things could be so much better.
Odion Ighalo was the other player to arrive in January, arriving on deadline and confirmed an hour after the transfer window had closed. The player arrived in Manchester on Monday with United confirming that the player would wear the vacant number 25 shirt for the remainder of the season, which is the length of his loan spell from Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua. Solskjaer stated that the Nigerian will give the squad a different option up front, based on what he’s got.
Ighalo may not be one of the biggest names in football and many supporters have mocked the signing using the suggestion that United turned down Erling Haaland, who has scored seven goals in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund so far this season, in just three matches, but I think there was more to that which was based on the release clause of the player in his contract. United will be looking to build a team, not one which can be broken up with release clauses being met.
Right now though, we have to wait around two weeks before seeing United play football again. Ighalo could face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, provided that he is fit enough to play for his new club. In China, for Shanghai Shenhua, Ighalo has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances, previously scoring 36 goals and eight assists in 55 appearances playing for Changchun Yatai. He might be enough to get United to where they want to be this season, but beyond that is down to what happens in the summer transfer window.
Rumours are back in the media about Martial not being seen as the player to carry United forward, which can be seen from his most recent appearances. He is playing more as a winger than a striker and Solskjaer is said to not value that. However, it has been reported that Martial has a fan in the ownership of the club, none other than Joel Glazer, who reportedly sees the Frenchman as United’s very own version of footballing legend, Pelé.
This made me laugh more about the Glazers than I have ever laughed before. It just goes to show that this family knows nothing about football. Imagine likening a player like Martial to Pelé. The Pelé that scored 643 goals in 656 appearances for Santos, also scoring 64 goals in 107 appearances for New York Cosmos during his playing career. Not to mention the 77 goals in 92 competitive matches for Brazil which rose to 95 goals in 114 matches including friendlies. I see no comparison at all.
Perhaps Joel Glazer meant Pellè instead of Pelé. Graziano Pellè to be exact. The Italian centre-forward who used to play for Southampton and scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 80 appearances. Martial is more Pellè than Pelé. I understand that I may upset Martial FC with these comments, but as Colonel Nathan R. Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson in the Hollywood blockbuster, A Few Good Men, “you can’t handle the truth.” Most will agree with this comment, some will not.