Erik ten Hag believes Cristiano Ronaldo can again score 20-plus goals for Manchester United this season.
Ronaldo scored his third of the season in Thursday’s 3-0 Europa League victory over Sheriff at Old Trafford on his return from a one-game suspension by the manager following his early disappearance down the tunnel against Spurs earlier this month. Last season he scored 24 times, 17 in the Premier League. Ten Hag was asked whether he believed Ronaldo could reach that milestone again.
“It’s up to him,” he said. “But I think when you collect all the chances he creates, the team creates for him in the last weeks, you see he’s still capable of getting in the right positions and he’s still capable of finishing them. I think it’s possible, yeah.”
Marcus Rashford, from a No 10 berth, scored his sixth of the season against Sheriff. Ten Hag has often preferred him to Ronaldo at No 9 for league matches and was asked whether the Portuguese could fight his way into the strongest XI.
“I know some see it like this but I don’t have a Europe team and I don’t have a Premier League team,” Ten Hag said. “I look at the opponent and what we need, what suits the opponent. Now I have to focus on West Ham United for Sunday. We will pick the team to start but also have a plan B or plan C in the pocket to win that game.
“That’s what we need finally, to win games, and for that we not only need 11 players, we need the whole squad. I think that’s worked well [Rashford at No 9] but I think with Cristiano and Marcus in the back it worked well. I was happy with that. And I must say also, Donny [van de Beek] came on in the last part and he also had some good positions in between the lines. I think that combination was good.
“He [Donny] was out a long time out because of injury. When you analyse the season so far, then if he was available he’d get his chance. We need goals and I know Donny is really good in that position to score goals, but he’s also really good in defensive transition.”
Ten Hag suggested that another of his forwards, the injured Anthony Martial, may play again before the World Cup. “I hope,” said Ten Hag of the Frenchman. “He’s making progress, he’s outside, he’s working there, he’s on the pitch and we’re waiting for his step back in team training.”