Manchester United striker crisis: Where will the goals come from after Marcus Rashford's injury?
Marcus Rashford hobbled off at West Ham while United were already lacking attacking options
Few could argue with Manchester United's decision to send Alexis Sanchez off to Italy on loan after his woeful spell at Old Trafford.
There was no uproar of protest when Romelu Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan at a similar time this summer. The Belgian was a regular scorer over the course of his two seasons at United without hitting the heights of his Premier League hot-shot rivals.
But now serious questions are being asked once again about United's transfer business - and in particular the make-up of their front-line.
Circumstance saw them finish their abject 2-0 defeat to West Ham on Sunday with no fit strikers after Marcus Rashford hobbled off with a groin injury.
Anthony Martial has been out injured for the past few weeks and Mason Greenwood, who doesn't turn 18 until October, was absent due to illness.
And that is the extent of United's striking options.
Jesse Lingard was thrust into the striking role - and he hasn't scored in the Premier League since manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first game in charge back in December 2018 (he did net against Arsenal in the FA Cup in January).
Solskjaer suggested Rashford won't be making an instant return.
“He felt his groin. We'll do a scan tomorrow to see how badly he's injured. I don’t know how long he’ll be out, I’m not a doctor. But he'll probably be out for a little while.”
Greenwood is expected to return in the next few days, while Solskjaer is "hopeful" Martial will return to the squad for Arsenal's visit to Old Trafford next Monday.
He added: “We’ve had historically loads of centre-backs over the last few years struggling with injuries, we’ve gone down here with Michael Carrick playing centre-back – I don’t know if he played here – and Darren Fletcher.
“And at the moment it’s strikers. That’s just how it’s gone."
But what kind of form and fitness level Martial will be at is anyone's guess given his propensity to blow hot and cold over the past three seasons, and relying on a teenager with one professional goal to his name is a long way from the days of crack marksmen Ruud van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney leading the attack.
Even when United have Rashford and Martial fit, their firepower is significantly short of title challengers Manchester City and Liverpool. Daniel James has netted three of his seven career league goals this season and is a bright spot. Juan Mata has scored only one league goal since December 8.
A look at the graphics above show United's top four scorers in the league this calendar year have scored just 23 goals between them. City's Sergio Aguero has scored 20 goals on his own, while Liverpool's fearsome front trio have bagged 39 in the league and been helped by four from defender Virgil van Dijk, who has matched Martial's total.
Liverpool's opponents know if they keep Mohamed Salah quiet they still have to contain Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Very few defences get the better of both Aguero and Raheem Sterling while City have potential scorers all over the pitch.
Aside from the first match of the season, when they beat Chelsea 4-0, United have failed to score more than one goal in a match this season.
Factor in the final five matches of last season when they scored just twice and it is clear they have a problem in front of goal which has been exacerbated by their injury situation in recent weeks.
The absence of Paul Pogba through injury since the 1-1 draw with Southampton in August hasn't helped, though he is back in training.
Still, it raises the question of why United weren't prepared for a situation such as this, especially in a season with a potentially tiring Europa League campaign.
United have netted eight times in the league this season, City 24 times and Liverpool 17. Sixteenth-placed Norwich have scored more than United, who at this stage in 2011 had scored 21 goals already.
Problems are mounting for Solskjaer, and, as obvious as it sounds, they won't go away until his side start scoring more.
Published: September 23, 2019 04:14 PM