Rashford, Martial, Greenwood... Where Are The Goals?
By Will Evans
February 18, 2021
Bruno Fernandes continues to grab the goal
scoring headlines - but Manchester
United's forwards are struggling to hit the
While United have exceeded expectations to sit
second in the Premier League, just one win in their
last five games has derailed hopes of a title challenge.
And with attention turning to tonight's Europa
League last-32 tie against Real Sociedad, boss Ole
Gunnar Solskjaer must get his attacking stars firing
The state of play
If you ignore United's 9-0 demolition of
Southampton, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial (pictured above) have
not scored a league goal between them since the 2-1
victory over Aston Villa on January 1.
Equally worryingly, dropped points against West
Brom and a shock 2-1 defeat to rock-bottom Sheffield
United were largely caused by a lack of clinical finishing.
Solskjaer's men created 19 chances and had 26
shots across those two contests but were unable to
kill off their lowly opponents.
With 16 goals in all competitions, it is perhaps
unfair to be too critical of Rashford.
After all, that is only three fewer than Fernandes,
though his eight Premier League goals are less flattering up against the Portuguese star's 14.
The 23-year-old England ace's solitary league goal
since the turn of the year is reflected by a decline in
his shooting accuracy.
He has only managed to get 42.8% of his shots on
target in 2021, compared with 48.7% before January 1.
Having just signed a contract extension until 2025,
Solskjaer will hope Greenwood can improve on a
paltry return of just one league goal this season.
The youngest of United's misfiring forwards, there
are signs the teenager's fortunes may be about to
improve despite United's recent drop in form.
Greenwood, 19, was spending large periods out
by the right touchline prior to the new year but has
increasingly been drifting into more central areas
where he can have a greater impact on the game.
That positional shift is perfectly illustrated by
the number of shots he has been able to get on target
in 2021 (0.96 vs 0.72 per 90 minutes), along with an
increase of big chances he has created for the players
around him since the turn of the year (0.24 vs 0.14
per 90 minutes).
Martial's goal scoring form has been poor throughout the current campaign - but Solskjaer has not
lost faith in the 25-year-old forward.
Speaking ahead of this evening's clash with
Sociedad, he said: "I know Anto is working hard to
get back to where he was. And he'll score goals.
"His attitude is very good. Form is sometimes
temporary but class is permanent.
The Frenchman's expected goals (xG) numbers
certainly back up his manager's assertion, with
Martial's xG of 0.4 per 90 minutes far higher than
his actual average of 0.27 per game.
Time to step up
Fernandes cannot carry United's goal scoring burden alone, especially this evening, with Edinson
Cavani being ruled out of this Europa League first
leg with a knock.
His out-of-form attacking team-mates simply
must step up to the plate.
The Red Devils have only been creating marginally fewer chances in 2021 than they were earlier in
the season (10.89 vs 11.07 per 90 minutes).
With those behind them doing their job, the onus
is firmly on Rashford, Greenwood and Martial to
make more of the opportunities they get.
Shola Shoretire: Man Utd Wonderkid Ready
To Follow In Rashford And Greenwood's Footsteps
The 17-year-old had Europe's biggest clubs tracking him before signing his first professional contract, and he could soon make his first-team debut
If all goes to plan for Shola Shoretire on Thursday
in Turin, then the teenager could add his name to a
long list of illustrious Manchester United players.
The 17-year-old has travelled as part of Ole Gunnar
Solskjaer's squad for the first time, meaning he could
make his debut against Real Sociedad in the last 32
of the Europa League.
Doing so would see him added to the roster of
superstars who have bridged the gap between the
club's academy and the first team while also completing a pretty memorable week for the highly talented forward.
Having celebrated his 17th birthday at the start of
February, United announced in the days that followed that Shoretire had signed his first professional
contract with the club despite interest in him from
Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern
He was immediately promoted to train under the
watchful eye of Solskjaer, who must have been suitably impressed given the England youth
international's presence in the group that flew out
to Italy on Wednesday.
The bright lights of Juventus' home ground, the
Allianz Stadium, promise to be a world away from
the car headlights that used to illuminate Shoretire's
local park in Newcastle as he put in extra training
sessions around a decade ago.
Born in the north-east, Shoretire's first formal
footballing education came at the Wallsend Boys
Club, whom he joined at the age of six.
Wallsend have a rich history of producing players
who go onto make their mark on the professional
game, with former United favourites Michael Carrick
and Steve Bruce as well as ex-England captain Alan
Shearer among their alumni. Shoretire is on the cusp of becoming the 83rd
player with previous links to Wallsend to make their
debut at the top level, and it was clear upon his
arrival that he had both the ability and personality
to make the grade at a big club.
"When someone has that star talent you can just
tell, Ian Riley, who coached Shoretire during his
solitary year in the Wallsend Under-8s, tells Goal.
"It's hard to explain but it's there already.
"If you throw a ball at them it just happens. You
can teach people how to control a ball and work on
their touch, but some people just have natural ability, and Shola was one of those.
"Wherever you played him he did alright because
he had determination and he always had confidence,
though he mostly played on the right wing. He liked
to dribble and go past people and he liked to cross
the ball and he scored goals. He was an all-round
He adds of his demeanour: "There's lots of players who are really talented that don't make it, they
don't have that drive. Shola had that drive and you
could see it from an early age he had it.
"He was always quiet, always listened, always
determined and always wanted to win - you can't give people that.
Shoretire spent just 12 months with Wallsend,
whom he led to the league title, before joining
Newcastle United's academy and making an instant
impression on former coach David Ballantyne.
"When he arrived, he was small but he was strong
as an ox, and what really stood out for me was his
national athleticism, Ballantyne tells Goal.
"I've coached thousands of kids over the years,
and I can count on one hand how many I would say
who have a real chance of making it as a pro, even at
that young age, but there was something a bit special about him.
"He's so quick, a natural athlete really. Light on
his feet which made him even quicker on the ball
with his footwork. Hardly anyone could get him off
the ball due to his skill and his strength. He reminded me back then of a young Micah Richards, so
strong and so fast but technically good as well.
"He had a really good attitude - he was almost a
perfectionist. He used to get frustrated if he couldn't
do things first time or he was missing the passes or
the goals or the shots or if he couldn't pick up the
technique first time.
So determined was Shoretire to be the best that he
would work with Ballantyne - who owns the coaching company, Feet4Football - one-on-one at the local park, with their sessions sometimes lasting long
into the evening.
Ballantyne's only frustration is that he was not
able to keep Shoretire in the north-east, where he
believes he would already have made first-team appearances for Newcastle.
Instead the young forward departed for Manchester after two years with the Magpies, and having
originally been spotted by academy scouts at
Manchester City, he eventually found a home with
the Red Devils.
Ever since joining United he has played above his
age-group, and in 2018 he became the youngest player
to ever feature in the UEFA Youth League when
making his debut in the U19s competition at the age
of 14 years and 314 days.
Last season he starred for the U18s side at Old
Trafford as they reached the semi-finals of the FA
Youth Cup, most memorably scoring in the quarterfinal victory over Wigan Athletic despite having spent
the whole day at school before joining up with his
team-mates in the evening.
This term he has been key figure for Neil Wood's
U23s team, scoring six goals and laying on three
assists in 13 starts, including a hat-trick in the recent
6-4 win over Blackburn Rovers as he combined to
devastating effect with new signing Amad Diallo
and French midfielder Hannibal Mejbri.
As Shoretire continues to develop, the most pressing question surrounds his eventual position, given
he has played on both wings, as a central striker and
as a No.10 over the course of the current campaign,
with his versatility having been compared to that of
fellow teenage sensation Mason Greenwood.
Regardless of which role he ends up making his
own, it is clear that he is ready to be unleashed after
largely being kept under wraps in terms of media
exposure by United's staff.
"As the season has gone on you have seen his
talent. His work rate off the ball is excellent, and you
can see in the last couple of minutes he is the one
chasing back and getting tight to people, Wood said
"You see the quality in his technique and his
touches. He is comfortable receiving it in tight spaces,
he can turn so quickly.
"It's been tough for him. He's just turned 17 and
he's playing against some older lads, so he's had to
find a way of coping and he's done that really well.
"Looking back to the first game to now he's done
brilliant with that. He's a talent and he's one you
have to be patient with. Don't expect too much too
soon and let him develop and keep working.
So whether Shoretire is next in action on Thursday in Turin or on Monday for United's U23s
against Everton, there is no doubt that in the very
near future the next special talent from the club's
famed academy system will be making his mark at
the Theatre of Dreams.
There is a reason Europe's biggest clubs tried to
get their hands on Shoretire. Soon United supporters will get to see it for themselves.