The job for new Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag could get a bit tougher in the short-term. With the recent news that Cristiano Ronaldo has told the club he would like to leave this summer, the state of the striker position for them looks a bit empty. With or without the Portuguese international, United has some questions to answer in that area of the pitch.
Cristiano Ronaldo told Man United he wants to leave this summer as he wants to see more ambition. Man Utd are still hopeful of keeping CR7, but aware of decision. 🚨🇵🇹 #Ronaldo
Cristiano has no agreement with any other club. Mendes explored options for weeks and will continue. pic.twitter.com/VRji13zrz0
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 2, 2022
On July 2nd, Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reported the news that Ronaldo told the club he wanted to leave. The fit between the 37-year-old and ten Hag always seemed a bit off, but it looked as if the two sides were going to make it work. Ronaldo is not traveling on United’s preseason tour due to personal/family issues, so the club will have to resolve this situation quickly.
Replacing a player who scored 18 goals in the league last season may seem difficult, but people should take into account that the way Ronaldo played hurt the rest of the team. Besides the goals, his inability to impact play in other ways, especially as the leader of the press, really hamstrung United as a whole.
Bruno Fernandes is probably the first name that comes to mind when people think about players who had an underwhelming campaign. The attacking midfielder only scored ten and assisted six in the league after 30 goal contributions the year before. While Fernandes struggling was not completely as a result of playing under Ronaldo, the striker did have a part to play in those struggles.
Manchester United were reportedly interested in former Benfica striker Darwin Núñez, but the 23-year-old opted to sign for Liverpool instead. The club has not been heavily linked to any other big name forwards. Now that Edinson Cavani has departed and there is a good chance he will not be the only forward to leave this summer, United find themselves in quite a tough situation.
If the club were to sell Ronaldo and not replace him in the market this summer, the player who will likely get a majority of the minutes at the nine would be Marcus Rashford. The 24-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career at club level. Rashford scored four and assisted two in 13 starts, only playing just over 1,200 league minutes.
Putting in the work 💪🏾⚽️ pic.twitter.com/VPzUmTiLYQ
— Marcus Rashford MBE (@MarcusRashford) March 22, 2022
It is important to mention that the English international has been hindered by a variety of injuries over the last three years. A back issue during the 2019-20 season and a shoulder issue during the 2021-22 season were two injuries that kept him out for at least three months. Rashford even mentioned that he played a full season with constant pain before undergoing shoulder surgery following the end of EURO 2020.
Considering everything he has dealt with over the last few years, Rashford has earned a well-deserved pass for his inconsistencies on the pitch. The Manchester United medical staff did a poor job of handling his injuries. With that being said though, the club needs a bounce back campaign from the forward with so many unknowns around him. After all, Rashford has shown to be fantastic when he is at his best.
Anthony Martial is returning to Old Trafford after an unsuccessful loan spell at Sevilla. The 26-year-old Frenchman failed to score a league goal in 490 minutes. Martial missed a good portion of time during the second half of the season with multiple injuries. For a player lacking confidence, the last thing he needed to experience was another six months of misery. Unfortunately, that is what Martial went through during his brief time in Spain.
The most productive campaign Martial has had during his time at United was the 2019-20 season, when the forward scored 17 and assisted six in over 2,600 league minutes. In the following season and a half, Martial only contributed to eight league goals prior to his six-month loan.
Many would have expected Martial to have already left the club, but he still finds himself as a United player. If ten Hag sees him as a player for his project, the attacker could be in for a comeback season in 2022-23. Martial can play either off the left or through the middle, so it will be interesting to see where he is utilized (if he stays of course).
Rashford and Martial are the two most likely options to start at striker, but ten Hag could play someone like Bruno Fernandes as a false nine. Of course, this situation could completely change if United are unable to sell Ronaldo. But in a scenario where he leaves the club, the team will need to find a different source of goals throughout the 2022-23 campaign.