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Erik ten Hag indicates Anthony Martial is Manchester United’s first choice striker

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Erik ten Hag indicates Anthony Martial is Manchester United's first choice striker

Erik ten Hag has indicated Anthony Martial is his first-choice striker at Manchester United.

Martial enjoyed a productive pre-season under Ten Hag but has missed 13 weeks of the campaign through three separate injuries that have reduced him to six appearances.

Martial has still scored four goals and provided two assists and the 26-year-old could start only his second Premier League game in the last year at Fulham on Sunday.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed United’s 4-2 League Cup win over Aston Villa through illness and Martial made a goalscoring return to the starting line-up before he was withdrawn as a precaution in the 61st minute.

“Definitely, he plays very well in a lot of aspects of football, I’m happy with that, except his availability,” Ten Hag said of Martial. “But we also have others and we have played with Marcus Rashford as the nine. We also have Cristiano Ronaldo, so we have more options there.

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“It’s quite clear in my way of playing, I like the type that Anthony Martial is because he can hold the ball, he’s a target, he can link up, he can also run behind, he has speed, he can finish and he’s a good presser.”

United have encountered issues with their attack, which has tallied a meagre 18 goals in 13 Premier League games, whenever there has been a significant injury.

Headline summer signing Antony has missed the last four games with a muscular injury and Martial has been unavailable for 14 of United’s fixtures this term. Ronaldo refused to come on in the 2-0 win over Tottenham last month and was subsequently omitted from the squad against Chelsea three days later.

Jadon Sancho has not figured in the last fortnight due to illness and has struggled for form while Anthony Elanga is still without a club goal since February. That has allowed the exciting 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho to emerge and make three starts in the last two weeks.

“Yes, definitely, yeah. In the front line, the availability of the players – that is a concern for us,” Ten Hag acknowledged. “We had so many games, like Newcastle United, Marcus Rashford ill (but came on).

“We had to play some other games where we have to improvise to construct a proper offensive line. If you can’t do that, then it’s really difficult to get into the first four, if you don’t have the players to construct a proper offensive line.”

“Of course, we analyse that as well, he’s (Martial) analysing that, what can we do to change that? We took some measures to do that, so it’s always when you often have injuries and illness, there is a reason.

“Sometimes it’s also bad luck and he was really in a good way and then last 10 minutes in (the pre-season friendly) Atletico Madrid, he got an injury and that threw him really back.

“I’m so happy he’s back now and that we can manage him and that he stays fit because he is an important part of the squad.

“One of the conclusions you can already make is about the frontline, that is a concern. I think we really made progress in football: pressing, playing out from the back and also attacking, but the final third of our game we have to improve.

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