Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag is reportedly backing Marcus Rashford to score at least 20 goals this season and help the team challenge for the Premier League title.
The Red Devils started their campaign with back-to-back losses to Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford but have now won their last four against Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal.
The 20-time English champions are now fifth in the table, just three points behind leaders Arsenal, with their next league fixture scheduled for September 18 against Leeds United.
According to The Sun, Ten Hag believes that Rashford can help Man United challenge for the title, having set the England international a target of at least 20 goals this term.
The 24-year-old, who is reportedly in line for a new long-term deal, has been in strong form for the Red Devils this season, scoring three goals and contributing two assists in six Premier League appearances.
Rashford’s form is believed to have put him in a strong position to earn a recall to the England squad for the national team’s upcoming UEFA Nations League fixtures.
“The manager wants Marcus to be United’s number one striker and lead the line up front. He believes Marcus has the ability to become one of the world’s best and wants him to express himself in matches,” the newspaper quotes a source as saying.
“He is always telling him to use his pace and skills when he gets a chance. He told Marcus he will easily score 20 this season. They have a great relationship and Marcus is really happy.”
Ten Hag is also believed to have told the players in the aftermath of the win over Arsenal last weekend that the Red Devils should be challenging Manchester City for the league title this season.
Meanwhile, it is claimed that the majority of the players believe that Rashford is a better fit to lead the line than Cristiano Ronaldo, who is net to score in seven appearances in all competitions this term.
“As long as Ronaldo starts on the bench, the players have the confidence to express themselves,” the newspaper’s source allegedly stated.
“With Ronaldo on the pitch, the team feel pressured. All the players loved it when Ronaldo came back but they’re frustrated he missed pre-season. Ronaldo’s not up to speed and relies on instinct – but that doesn’t work in Ten Hag’s system.”
Man United, who suffered a 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday, saw their Premier League game for this weekend, due to be away to Crystal Palace, postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The 20-time English champions will be back in European action against Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday evening ahead of a potential clash with Leeds, although the fixture is in doubt due to the Queen’s state funeral, which will be held on September 19.