Manchester United finished Sunday’s dismal 2-0 defeat against West Ham with Jesse Lingard toiling as the central striker after Marcus Rashford limped off injured.
Anthony Martial has been missing for a few weeks, while midweek goalscorer Mason Greenwood missed the game with tonsillitis.
That left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer facing criticism for allowing Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku to leave the club this summer without securing a replacement.
United face a multitude of problems but might it be argued that no club in the Premier League would be in an especially great position if they lost their three first-choice strikers?
Rashford and Martial deserved their chance
Many United fans wanted to see a faster style of play this season and Solskjaer’s plans to make that happen involved the presence of a quicker centre forward.
That meant that Lukaku’s style – sub-par hold up play, a lack of movement but intermittent goals – had no place, giving Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial a chance to shine through the middle.
Martial, especially, needed that, having seen his number nine shirt given to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Lukaku and being shunted out wide.
At some point, a United manager had to do that. Martial was in the process of grabbing his chance when injury struck, while Rashford struggled more and does look more like a wide forward these days.
But the duo had to get a chance through the middle at some stage. If neither can stay fit or score on a regular basis this season, then Solskjaer would deserve criticism in the summer if he again failed to sign a striker.
Which other team in the Premier League would shine without their three first-choice strikers?
Manchester City, for all their riches, have Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus as their striking options. If both men, and whichever youngster they perhaps had lined up as the next cab off the rank, got injured, they would look as short up front as United.
Liverpool have Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi – who inexplicably exploded into a big-game goalscorer last season and Rhian Brewster. Sadio Mane and Mo Salah could cover an injury crisis, but losing all three frontmen would hit and hit hard.
Arsenal released Danny Welbeck and loaned Eddie Nketiah, leaving them with just Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. They are just an injury to the Gabonese away from a United-style situation.
The sight of Jesse Lingard looking utterly lost up front at the London Stadium will be held up as an emblem of United’s failings in the transfer market. There are many of those but going into the season with three strikers isn’t the awful idea it is being made out to be.
More worthy of examination is why United have already suffered so many injuries this season after a pre-season Solskjaer declared himself so pleased with at the time. No team in the Premier League would look especially good shorn of all three frontline strikers.
United have many, many problems and there’s plenty to go at for the critics. Having just three strikers in the first team should be way down the list.
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