Erik ten Hag has admitted it is ‘really difficult’ for Manchester United to finish in the top four this season without Anthony Martial.
The Frenchman impressed under ten Hag in pre-season but a series of injury problems have limited him to just two starts and six appearances in all this season.
Four goals and two assists in that time have offered a glimpse of what he can bring to the Dutchman’s side, scoring the opener in Thursday’s 4-2 win over Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup.
With United’s options up top limited, ten Hag insists it is vital Martial stays fit.
‘Yes, definitely,’ ten Hag told a press conference ahead of Sunday’s clash with Fulham. ‘In the front line, the availability of the players is a concern for us.
‘We have too many games like Newcastle United – Marcus Rashford is ill then, and we had to play some other games too where we have [to adjust] our offensive line.
‘So if he [Martial] can’t be fit it is really difficult to get in the first four.’
Cristiano Ronaldo missed Thursday’s win through illness having started and completed United’s previous four games after being dropped from the squad for the draw with Chelsea.
While Marcus Rashford has also played through the middle this season, ten Hag made it clear that when fit, Martial is his first-choice centre forward.
‘He [Martial] plays very well in a lot of aspects of football. I am happy with that, except his availability. But we have others. When we play with Marcus Rashford as the 9 we have a good part of the game.
‘We have Cristiano and we have options there but quite clear to my way of playing, I like a player like Anthony. He can hold the ball, he can finish and is a good presser.’
Jadon Sancho also missed the win over Villa through illness and is unavailable for the trip to Craven Cottage with Antony also a doubt.
The Brazil international has missed United’s last three games through injury but ten Hag insists he will ‘definitely not’ miss the World Cup.
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