Inconsistency Will Continue to Hinder Man Utd Without a Long-Term Striker Solution

Mitchell Wilks
Edinson Cavani is proving that Man Utd desperately need a new talisman
Edinson Cavani is proving that Man Utd desperately need a new talisman / OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

There's always a million and one talking points to take away from a Manchester United game these days, good and bad, but they were mostly of the latter persuasion following a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.

We could start anywhere, really. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's inability to effectively use and recognise when he needs to make substitutions proved costly yet again, but there's only so much he can do from the dugout.

Another inconsistent performance from the 11 United players on the pitch was disappointing but not surprising, and something fans are getting all too used to seeing. One game, they look capable of beating anyone put in front of them and brimming with confidence. The next, they look a complete shadow and entirely bereft of confidence - and footballing knowhow.

United completely lost their composure against Les Parisiens
United completely lost their composure against Les Parisiens / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Sure, we can point the finger at Harry Maguire who clearly isn't an £85m defender nor United captain material. We can also point the finger at Fred for losing his cool, too, but how he stayed on the pitch for the second half was bewildering and should've been rectified by Solskjaer.

The real problem, though, lies in attack.

Criticise the over-reliance on counter attacking football, but it works when the attackers are good enough. The issue is that the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford simply aren't. A 3-1 final result flattered PSG, with United missing far too many clear-cut chances once again.

There's an everlasting air of romance about how Martial is once again donning the number nine for United and can now grow into the role of leading the line, but how much longer is he going to get to prove himself? It's a rhetoric that's been played out for seasons now, but the Frenchman only shows his ability in patches and turns 25 in December, meaning this 'potential' excuse is long gone.

Martial has only managed to hit 20+ goals in one season with the Red Devils, which came last campaign. His debut season of 18 in all competitions was his second best, but are we really clinging onto a feat from five years ago? Sure, he might grab assists too, but 20 goals must the benchmark if you want to lead the line at a club as big as United.

He's not alone, though, and blame must also fall on the shoulders of Marcus Rashford. It's always hard for fans to criticise the hometown lad - especially considering Rashford's incredible efforts off the pitch in recent times - but truthfully, it's glaringly obvious that he also isn't the answer to the Red Devils' number nine problems.

The 23-year-old's stats read similarly to Martial's; neither of them have managed to hit 20+ goals in more than one season, with 2019/20 being the anomaly for both. The fact that United have continually relied on the pair, aimlessly swapping the nine role between them, hasn't helped, but time is up.

It's far too early to tell where Mason Greenwood will operate best, but even if it is to be as a central striker, he's too young to carry the burden. Edinson Cavani has come in and proven this further by providing the cutting edge of an out-and-out number nine that both Martial and Rashford still lack, but at 33, it's paper over the cracks.

Cavani is a short-term option, and United must begin to plan for the future
Cavani is a short-term option, and United must begin to plan for the future / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

This isn't to say that the pair don't have a role at United, because they absolutely do. Both Martial and Rashford have proven to be creative and have an impressive range to their game, be it finishing off a counter attack, starting one, or beating a man and scoring a peach from distance. They need a number nine to bounce off, though, and it's time for United to address this in the long-term by finding that man.

United missing out on Jadon Sancho last summer is a sign that they were after the wrong Borussia Dortmund attacker. The priority has to be a striker, and while Sancho would no doubt have made an impact, spending that cash to take Erling Haaland off their hands would've made much more sense.

Time is up for Martial and Rashford at this point. It's time to rip off the plaster and accept that they simply cannot cut the mustard as a number nine. Failure to realise this will only continue to pile on problems as time progresses, no matter what manager and what style of play comes into the club in the future.