ERIK TEN HAG fears Manchester United’s mis-firing forward line could cost them a place in next season’s Champions League.
The Dutchman is happy with the progress his team has made in his first few months in charge at Old Trafford.
However the lack of goals is a big concern with just 18 in 13 Premier League matches so far – and only six in the last five.
One player who Ten Hag wants more from is French forward Anthony Martial – whose goal against Aston Villa in Thursday night’s Carabao Cup win was only his fourth of the season.
Asked how he will look back on his first four months in charge when the season breaks after Sunday’s trip to Fulham, he said: “One of the conclusions you can make is about the front line and there is a concern.
“I think we really made progress in football, pressing, playing out from the back and also attacking, but the final third of our game, we have to improve.
“But you need numbers available and we have to cover so many games that you need rotation otherwise you don’t keep the players fresh.
“We need players who are available and at the highest level in the front line.
“The availability of the players, that is a concern for us. We had so many games, like Newcastle United, Marcus Rashford ill.
“We had to play some other games where we have to improvise to construct a proper offensive line.
“If you can’t do that, then it’s really difficult to get into the first four if you don’t have the players to construct a proper offensive line.”
Ten Hag says Martial, 26, has all the attributes he wants in a centre forward – apart from being available on a regular basis.
He has made only six appearances in all competitions this season – and has just one start in the league.
The manager added: “I like the type that Anthony is because he can hold the ball, he’s a target, he can link up, he can also run behind, he has speed, he can finish and he’s a good presser.
“Definitely he plays very well in a lot of aspects of football, I’m happy with that, except his availability.
“Sometimes it’s also bad luck and he was really in a good way and then last 10 mins in Atletico Madrid, he got an injury and that threw him really back.
“I’m so happy he’s back now and that we can manage him and that he stays fit because he is an important part of the squad.
“But we also have others and we have played with Marcus Rashford as the nine.
“We also have Cristiano Ronaldo, so we have more options there. It’s quite clear in my way of playing.”
One player who is not proving to be the answer is Donny van de Beek who has been given the starts he wanted in the last three games.
Ten Hag says the performances have been better than some have given him credit for – but admits his old Ajax favourite has to do more.
Van de Beek spent the second half of last season on loan at Everton but his United boss does not see the value of another temporary move away.
He believes the 25-year-old has to prove himself at Old Trafford or leave permanently.
Ten Hag said: “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.
“But it’s not going to be easy for him because the competition there is really strong.
“I’ve watched the games back and he is in the positions I expect a No10 to be in. So I think in terms of position he is doing quite well.
“But he is not on the scoring list or the assist list so he can do better.”
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