Manchester United making ‘progress’ in search for new striker, says Erik Ten Hag

Rasmus Hojlund in action during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Atalanta BC in Milan

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United are making progress in their hunt for a new striker after admitting his side had “underperformed” in front of goal last season and need more cutting edge.

United are in talks with Atalanta over a deal for Denmark striker Rasmus Hojlund and hope to reach an agreement on the fee amid a reluctance to pay more than £60 million.

Ten Hag admitted United ideally would already have signed a striker but hopes to have the new man in sooner rather than later.

“We make progress, yeah, but we know how it works and when we have him, we will tell you directly,” the United manager said.

“The only thing I can say is we do everything that’s in our power to get it done. If it was up to me, yeah, as soon as possible, the earlier the better, because we have to integrate him into the team, the way of play.

“In an ideal situation, he would already be here but you do not always get ideal situations as a manager and you have to deal with the situation.”

United scored by the fewest goals of the Premier League’s top six, with just 58 in 38 matches, and Ten Hag insisted that had to improve and needed more players to chip in.

“We are underperforming there and we are aware of it so others have to contribute also in that area and therefore we are looking for scoring abilities,” he said.

“I think in Mason Mount we have a player extra who is capable of scoring goals and creating them and to play players like [Marcus] Rashford into position to score more goals. As a whole team we have to score more.”

Erik ten Hag watches from the touchline during the pre-season friendly between Arsenal and Manchester United

Erik ten Hag watches from the touchline during the pre-season friendly between Arsenal and Manchester United – Manchester United

Rashford – who signed a new five-year contract this month – was United’s top scorer with 30 goals last term, 17 of which came in the league, and Ten Hag has backed the England forward to repeat those numbers next season so long as his “attitude is right”.

In February, Ten Hag warned Rashford that he must guard against “laziness” to remain one of Europe’s most potent forwards.

“When his attitude is right then he will do that, it’s not easy and the team has to play well to put him in the right position,” Ten Hag said.

“When the team is playing well, so when we keep the rules and principles in our way of play and Rashford’s attitude is right and he puts himself in the right position, he will finish because (he) has great abilities.

“When he is in the box, he’s clinical, he’s ruthless, and he scores goals, with his right foot, with left foot and with his head.”

Anthony Martial returned to team training on Monday for the first time since suffering a torn hamstring at the end of last season. United would listen to offers for the France striker if the bid was right but Ten Hag maintains that he is a valuable asset when fit.

“Today he was in the team training, so it is … really hopeful,” he said. “Of course, when you have a player in your squad you have to expect he is available and players have to take responsibility to be available.

“But when he is not, I have to deal with the situation and we have shown we can be successful without that striker.

“But it’s easier when you have that striker in the team because every club who wins big trophies has scoring abilities in that team. We need a good squad and Anthony Martial is a brilliant football player so he will help us score goals.

“There are other areas like pressing in possession combinations, he’s a great player, so we hope he’s fit and he stays fit.”

A young United side made up predominantly of Under-21 players plus Jonny Evans, who is on a short-term contract, are due to face Wrexham at the SnapDragon Stadium on Tuesday evening local time before a senior side plays Real Madrid in Houston 24 hours later.

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