Ten Hag won’t lose sleep over missed Man Utd transfer targets as he backs Marcus Rashford to score 20 goals this season

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ERIK TEN HAG will not lose any sleep if he fails to bring in more firepower next month — because he believes Marcus Rashford can be a 20-goal hitman.

Ten Hag is making steady progress in his mission to take Manchester United back to the top.


Erik ten Hag believes Rashford can be a 20-goal-a-season manCredit: AFP
The Man Utd manager would love a new striker in January but believes he has options at his disposal


The Man Utd manager would love a new striker in January but believes he has options at his disposalCredit: Getty

Yet the lack of a clinical finisher could still derail their top-four challenge.

They managed just 20 goals before the World Cup break — half the amount City scored — and have also lost last year’s top marksman in Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ten Hag would love to add a new striker in January, with Dutch forward Cody Gakpo on his hit list.

But the United gaffer reckons the solution could already be on the books — if Rashford’s flying form continues over the next few months.

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The England striker hit three goals at the World Cup and scored a stunning solo effort in Wednesday’s 2-0 Carabao Cup win over Burnley.

United then confirmed they had triggered a 12-month contract extension for Rashford — along with Luke Shaw, Fred and Diogo Dalot — until 2024.

Ten Hag sees no reason why Rash cannot prove to be a master blaster over the second half of the campaign now he is back to his brilliant best.

Ahead of hosting struggling Nottingham Forest tomorrow, he said: “I always thought he is capable of scoring 20 goals in the Premier League. He got three in the World Cup, so he has the potential to score those numbers in the league.”

For all that Ronaldo was a shadow of his lethal former self over the final few months of his United career, he still managed 18 Prem strikes last term — one more than Rashford’s best-ever haul.

Yet Ten Hag thinks the fact his side are still on the coat-tails of the top four, despite a stop-start opening half of the season, proves their problems up front are not as serious as feared.

He added: “When you analyse the first 14 games we’ve played, we do not have a problem in the front line.

“Often players have not actually been 100 per cent fit and I have had to play them.

“When we get players fit and available we will score more goals.

“It’s a good sign that we are still fifth. Although we are aware that we need to score more goals, we need to improve on many more elements.

“We have to play better as a team, get better results and have more dominance in the games to get to a high level.

“Yes, we are aware we have lost a striker so need to get one in — but that also has to be the right one who brings quality to the team.

“The criteria is high here at Manchester United.”

For all their lack of goals, there is no disputing that Ten Hag is gradually turning the 20-time champions into a more solid unit.

They beat Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs before last month’s World Cup shutdown and there is certainly more steel to a side that have been easy-beats too often in recent seasons.

But Ten Hag certainly is not getting carried away just yet.

He added: “For me, you can always do better. When you are satisfied it brings you to laziness and I don’t want that.

“I give the best I have every day and want to see a better version of myself every day. That’s what I focus on internally.

“I am confident we will get the process right and it will come. But we have to do better — and that also counts for the manager.”

Anthony Martial believes United are in good shape to push up the table now.

The Red Devils reached the World Cup break with only one defeat from their last 12 matches in all competitions.

And Ten Hag and Co are four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham but with two games in hand.

Asked on MUTV if United should be optimistic, Martial said: “Yes, and why not. We’ve a very good team of players, with a great dynamic about us and a lot of victories already under our belt.

“We now just have to keep on in those winning ways we have shown in these recent matches.

“We have lots of matches coming up now but, apart from those who went off to the World Cup, there has been time for some rest.

“And those players will now also have had a few days off, so we hope we will all return in good shape for the challenges ahead and to win all the matches we can.”

Martial was overlooked for the France squad so was one of the group of United players not involved in Qatar.

The 27-year-old has had an injury-disrupted season so far but has four goals in the eight games he has played.

Martial, now likely to get the nod to face Forest, said: “We’ve put in a lot of good work and it has been a bit like a pre-season for us.

“We’ve worked hard on fitness training and getting into top shape physically and I have benefited a lot from that personally.”

United are still expected to be without defenders Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane following their involvement in the World Cup final.

But Harry Maguire — who largely impressed for England — could return to the side after missing the Clarets clash through illness.

Ten Hag explained: “We had some problems with illness like Harry but he was back on the training pitch on Friday so I’m happy with that.”

Apart from missing his two centre-backs, Ten Hag said the rest of the United players who played in Qatar were in good spirits.

The Dutchman explained: “The players had massive impressions out at the World Cup but now they are back and you can feel their energy.

“They are looking forward to the restart of the Premier League.

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“Varane and Martinez are not there yet — but we are hoping that their comeback is soon.”

  MANCHESTER UNITED (likely): De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Casemiro, Eriksen, Antony, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial.

Man Utd have been heavily linked with a move for Holland and PSV star Cody Gakpo


Man Utd have been heavily linked with a move for Holland and PSV star Cody GakpoCredit: Getty

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