His two main strikers, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, have both scored 21 goals this season in all competitions and both have scored 16 in the Premier League .
Solskjaer, a former striker himself, knows this is a great position for a manager to be in. Two hugely talented attackers, both natural goalscorers, neck-and-neck for goals in friendly competition to see who can score the most.
Marcus Rashford (left) and Anthony Martial (right) are engaged in a friendly rivalry to see who can score the most goals and it’s to the benefit of Manchester United in general
United manager Solskjaer will be delighted to see his two main strikers pushing one another on
It’s become more and more clear since the restart that Rashford and Martial – not to mention youngster Mason Greenwood – are inspiring one another to greater heights and it’s to United’s benefit.
French striker Martial, 24, had stepped up to compensate for Rashford’s absence with a back injury prior to football’s three-month shutdown.
His goals had come in fits and spurts earlier in the season and that does remain the case. You seldom see Martial score in two or three consecutive games but he is still delivering the goods.
Since football returned, he has scored a hat-trick against Sheffield United – the first treble of his senior career – and has since netted against Bournemouth and Southampton.
The strike against the Saints on Monday was his 50th Premier League goal for United and Martial is also creating more for his team-mates with assists in his last two outings.
Martial celebrates scoring against Bournemouth, one of five league goals since the restart
The French striker scored the first hat-trick of his senior career against Sheffield United
As Solskjaer said this week: ‘He’s stepped it up as an individual and more as a team player.
‘Physically, I remember there was talk about our forwards being the least active and there were stats flying around, but Anto is now working really hard for the team. He’s a quality finisher.’
So with Solskjaer’s influence, Martial is starting to shake off old inconsistencies and frustrations and look like an accomplished centre forward.
England international Rashford, 22, is more likely to score in a run of consecutive games as he did during a hot streak in the autumn.
That’s why his back injury, suffered in the FA Cup replay against Wolves in January, was of such concern to United.
But the Covid-19 shutdown allowed Rashford to make a full recovery and after a slightly slow start, goals in the games against Bournemouth and Southampton have helped allay concerns.
Rashford’s returns, which include 10 assists in all competitions, are more impressive for the fact he is often stationed wide left in the forward line as opposed to centre forward.
Marcus Rashford has scored in his last two matches, returning to scoring form after injury
Rashford slides the ball home during Monday’s 2-2 draw with Southampton at Old Trafford
However, delve a little deeper and the two players’ stats for the current campaign are remarkably similar.
Not only have they scored the same number of goals from the same number of Premier League starts (28), they have an identical number of touches in the opposition box (157).
Though Rashford has fired off more shots in Premier League games than Martial (89 to 75), the number actually on target is almost the same (39 to 38). In terms of chances created, Rashford shades it 31 to 25.
It suggests that both players are filling their roles as forwards – creating opportunities, getting shots off and scoring them – and are perhaps egged on by a little bit of inter-squad competition.
But the most encouraging thing for Solskjaer is how both Rashford and Martial have exceeded their returns from last season in all the areas that matter.
A comparison of the stats for both players shows similar returns in terms of goals, assists, shots on target and touches in the opposition box
A comparison with last season shows encouraging improvement for both attackers
Both players scored 10 Premier League goals in 2018-19, with Martial’s return the more impressive as he played eight fewer league games because of injury and competition from Romelu Lukaku.
With three games still to play before the Premier League concludes on July 26, both Rashford and Martial have already surpassed the number of shots attempted and dribbles attempted.
It suggests that the more the pair work under Solskjaer, with his little pearls of wisdom from a highly successful career with United, the more they are improving.
Both Rashford and Martial will be desperate to outdo each other in the final scoring and assist charts.
They’ll have plenty of opportunities yet. With Manchester City’s European ban overturned, United must battle with Chelsea and Leicester City to finish in fourth place.
They travel to Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace on Thursday night before games against West Ham and, intriguingly, Leicester during the final week.
This Sunday sees an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, while United pick up their UEFA Europa League campaign at the last-16 stage in August.
Finish fifth in the league table and they’ll have to win that competition to see the Champions League next term.
The good news for Solskjaer is that his forward line are flourishing. With Rashford and Martial engaged in a battle of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’, United’s season could yet have a successful ending.
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