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'Anthony Martial can step up and get to 20-goal mark' - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

United settle for 1-1 draw in Europa League round of 32 first leg against Club Brugge

It has been a positive week for Anthony Martial. In the absence of the injured Marcus Rashford, Manchester United’s French forward is playing in a central attacking role. Martial put United ahead in Monday’s 2-0 win at Chelsea with a superb header and he equalised in a less convincing team display on Thursday in Bruges with another superbly taken effort for his 14th goal of the season.

“Anthony can step up, get a few more goals and get to the 20-goal mark,” said his boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Europa League game which gave United a slight advantage before next week’s second leg; on Thursday United drew their round of 32 first leg with Club Brugge 1-1.

“He’s got quality, he’s a very good finisher who takes his chances really well. He’s got good technique in his finishing and he’s good receiving the ball, in dropping off and he can play almost like a false nine.”

Though undeniably talented, Martial can frustrate United fans with his inconsistency, but he’s now his team’s leading striker ahead of the on-loan Odion Ighalo and teenager Mason Greenwood. Solskjaer, a former striker himself, wants more from the 24 year old.

“Sometimes I’d like him to be stronger physically,” he remarked, while praising his goal at Chelsea as being “like a 1980s centre forward’s goal.”

There have been questions over Martial’s attitude in the past, too, though Solskjaer is encouraged by his commitment this season, “wanting to do those things that are not natural for him". “We’ve had to make him a number nine again after playing wide for so many years.”

Martial is expected to lead the line for United in Sunday’s Premier League game at home to a Watford side who beat United 2-0 in December, while midfielder Scott McTominay is ready to come back after injury.

“I think he might be in the squad,” stated Solskjaer, who has been impressed by the speed of his recovery. “I’m not surprised that’s he’s back because that’s the type of player that he is. He’s physical, he’s a leader, he never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him in the game. He can sit with Nemanja (Matic) or Fred or be one of the runners in midfield. We don't have enough runs past the strikers, but Scott used to be a striker.”

Inconsistency has plagued United’s season, but while they sit seventh with just 10 wins from 26 games, they are still only three points behind fourth placed Chelsea. Of their eight defeats, the loss at Watford who had won only one of their 17 games was perhaps the worst.

“That was a very disappointing game,” said the Norwegian. “We should have won but we gifted them two goals. We had chances as well but you can’t win games if you don’t take your chances.”

Two new signings have made Solskjaer more optimistic that United will start to convert more of their opportunities.

“I feel that with Bruno coming in and Odion (Ighalo) coming in we’ll get more goals. They’ve been lacking. In several games we’ve lost, we have had chances but we’ve not scored goals. Newcastle, Bournemouth, Watford, Burnley, Arsenal. Bruno, as we saw (in Bruges), gave us a new dimension.”

Despite this optimism, United are running out of games. They must get a winning run together and they must beat Watford.

Updated: February 21, 2020 02:00 PM

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