Erik ten Hag believes Marcus Rashford can score 20 Premier League goals for the first time in his career this season.
The 25-year-old has four in 14 appearances so far and his highest in the competition is the 17 of 2019-20. Manchester United have managed only 20 league goals in total and with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the manager is hoping to sign a replacement in January, with PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo under consideration.
However, Ten Hag challenged Rashford to step up. “I don’t want to pin myself to a number,” said the Dutchman. “I think he is capable of scoring 20 goals in the Premier League. He got three in the World Cup [for England] so we know the potential to score those numbers in the Premier League.
“We are aware we have lost a striker so need to get one in, but he has to be the right one who brings quality into the team, not just adding to the squad. The criteria is high here at Man United.”
He denied that United are missing a prolific marksman. “No. When you analyse the first 14 games we are not a problem in the front line,” Ten Hag said. “Often players have not been 100 per cent fit and I have had to play them. That was a problem in the first few games. When we get players fit and available in the front line then we will score more goals.”
The manager offered a positive take on his team being in fifth place, three points behind Tottenham, despite the low goal-count.
“I see it this way – it’s a good sign we are still fifth,” the 52-year-old said. “We are aware we need to score more, we need to improve on many more elements. That is what we aim for. There are many elements in football – we have to play better as a team, get better results, and have more dominance in the games to get to a high level and better results.”
United are in discussions with David de Gea over a new deal for the 32-year-old goalkeeper. Ten Hag was asked if this meant the long-term future of Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Nottingham Forest, was away from the club.
“No. He is on loan for one season,” Ten Hag said. “When that is coming to an end we will take a decision. I think he is playing really well at Nottingham Forest.”
Jadon Sancho, who has been training in the Netherlands to regain
fitness, will not be available for Forest’s visit on Tuesday. “I don’t think so, no,” Ten Hag said.