Solskjær backs Martial to get 20 goals for Manchester United for first time
Manager praises forward’s finishing but wishes he was physically stronger
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Europa League match against Club Brugge at Jan Breydel Stadium in Brugge, Belgium. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Anthony Martial can be the first Manchester United player to break the 20-goal barrier since Romelu Lukaku two seasons ago.
Martial scored his 14th of the campaign in Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Club Brugge in the Europa League last-32 opening leg. His highest total for United is 17, in 2015-16. He was fielded then as a centre-forward by Louis van Gaal – before Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival the following season – and Solskjær is also using him in that position.
Marcus Rashford was comfortably on course to score 20 goals but sustained a serious back injury when one away from that mark and may not play again this season.
Solskjær, asked whether Martial could score 20, said: “I think Anthony can step up, get a few more and get to the 20 mark. Definitely. He’s got quality of course, he’s a very good finisher. He takes his chances really well.
"There’s good technique in his finishing. He’s good receiving the ball at times and dropping off. He can play almost like a false nine as well. Sometimes I’d like him to be stronger physically.”
Martial also struck the opener in Monday’s 2-0 win at Chelsea, a header that was the kind of poacher’s striker Solskjær is encouraging from his forwards.
The manager said: “It was a 1980s centre-forward goal. Yeah, definitely [I want more of those]. I’m encouraged by his attitude this season as well, wanting to do those things that are not natural for him. You’ve got to make him a number nine again after playing wide for so many years [under José Mourinho]. Anthony and Marcus have played wide for a few years until the last 12 months really.”
Scott McTominay is in contention for Sunday’s visit of Watford, having recovered from a knee injury. “He had a rest day [Thursday] so let’s see how he is,” said Solskjær, before describing what the midfielder can offer.
“He’s a physical specimen. He’s a leader, he never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him. He can sit with Nemanja [Matic] or Fred, or he can be one of the runners in midfield. We’ve [been] talking about that today – that we don’t have that many runs past the striker. He used to be a striker before so he’s used to being in the box.”
The futures of Angel Gomes, who is 19, and the 20-year-old Tahith Chong are in the balance, as both are out of contract in the summer. “We’re still in talks with them,” said Solskjær.
“Tahith scored [on Thursday for the reserves]. He’d rather play a game than sit in the stands [at Bruges]. He’s just making sure that he’s ready when he gets a chance. He played really well against Wolverhampton in the FA Cup and I’m very pleased with him. The boys have got a great attitude. They’re absolutely top-class boys and we’re doing what we can to keep them because in a few years we can see them becoming very very good players.” – Guardian