Manchester United’s hunt for a striker: What’s going on inside Solskjaer’s head?

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Manchester United have been in amazing goalscoring form since the COVID-19-enforced break, scoring as many as nine goals in four games in all competitions.

The signing of Bruno Fernandes has been crucial to changing the dynamics of the team and providing creativity to their attack, as a result of which the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Odion Ighalo, and Mason Greenwood have looked lethal in front of goal.

Martial’s first senior hat-trick, in fact, came against Sheffield United on 24th June, with his strike partner, Rashford assisting two of those. The return of Paul Pogba, following an injury lay-off has also been pivotal to the team’s success.

However, the recent resurgence doesn’t necessitate the fact that the Red Devils do not need to look at signing a new striker when the transfer window opens at the end of the season.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a recent interview stressed the need to have competition within the squad, which he believes helps to bring out the best from each player.

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The Norwegian, in fact, drew references from his time as a striker at Old Trafford to infer that a squad can have a significant number of players in one position to bring the best out.

“You need competition for places at Manchester United. If you think you’ve got a divine right to be playing every game and are doing so well that we’re not going to look for players to replace you, you’re in the wrong place.”

So, how can a new striker fit into the current Manchester United squad, which already has a number of players vying for the same position?

The relative inexperience

Manchester United currently have Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Odion Ighalo and Anthony Martial to play as central strikers.

In the last three Premier League matches, Solskjaer has tried to accommodate both Martial and Rashford in the striking line up, while the other two have also chipped in.

Greenwood, in fact, started against Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday and scored an impressive goal.

Ighalo, whose loan-spell was recently extended until January next year, has also looked like scoring whenever he has been on the pitch.

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However, the lack of experience has been visible in the way the strikers have wasted several gilt-edged chances in front of goal. This was evident in the match against Tottenham Hotspur right after the break.

The Old Trafford outfit dominated possession and had as many as 12 shots on target, but failed to get past Hugo Lloris, except on one occasion when Bruno Fernandes scored from the penalty.

The arrival of someone such as Raul Jimenez from Wolverhampton Wanderers or Moussa Dembele from Lyon would certainly help to create a sense of calm in an otherwise inexperienced attacking line up.

Addressing the inconsistency

Manchester United are in desperate need of a striker who can score goals on a regular basis.

While the current group of forwards have found the back of the net more than often, they are still in need of a proven goalscorer, who can consistently net 20 plus goals every season.

As even the less-fancied teams are looking to improve every year with high-profile signings, the Premier League currently seems to be the hotbed for star players from around the world.

Manchester United, therefore, will also have to adapt to the changing scenario and need to find someone who will give them that edge over their competitors.

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The statistics for this season suggest that the Red Devils are far from the level of their rivals and new Premier League champions, Liverpool have reached over the last few years.

Compared to Liverpool’s 70, Manchester United have scored 51 goals in 32 Premier League games this season, 19 lesser than the Reds.

While reaching Liverpool’s level might not logically be possible immediately, Manchester United must try and bridge the gap. And having a goal poacher in their ranks might as well be the first significant step in that direction.

However, the Manchester United board will need to find the right balance between expectation and reality.

The club’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward has already highlighted the difficulties associated with spending millions in the market this summer.

Therefore, the club will have to find a solution to their problem, keeping all the limitations in mind, and obviously, it isn’t going to be easy.   

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