Gary Neville

While Manchester United endured a difficult start to the season under Erik ten Hag, the past few months have, largely, been impressive under the Dutchman.

The Reds have climbed to fifth in the Premier League table and progressed from their Europa League group, albeit with a play-off tie against Barcelona to come.

However, there are certain areas that still need improving at United, and the two transfer windows next year could go a long way in solving one ‘issue’. Ten Hag’s men have scored significantly fewer goals in the Premier League than their top-four rivals, which has led to criticism from a number of external sources.

United are the lowest-scoring of all the sides currently situated inside the top seven places in the table. While it is understandable that the Reds have scored fewer than leaders Arsenal and Pep Guardiola’s rampant Manchester City side, the fact that they have scored fewer than Brighton will concern Ten Hag.

The Reds’ problems at the top end of the pitch have certainly not gone unnoticed, with club legend Gary Neville recently claiming his former side have the worst front three of the ‘big-six’ clubs. Despite the fact United have spent so much on their attacking players – Jadon Sancho and Antony as two examples – the former Reds man has insisted that the team’s forward stars are not at the required level.

“United’s front three are the weakest out of the top six,” he said on the Gary Neville podcast after the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa.

“You think of Kulusevski, Kane, Son – United would take those three. Arsenal have Saka, Jesus, Martinelli. Liverpool have Nunez, Diaz, Jota, Salah and Firmino – you’d definitely choose three of them over what United have got. You’d take Chelsea’s even.

“United’s front players aren’t as good as they should be, although Erik ten Hag is getting the maximum out of them. I don’t know where the money has gone again – the spend over the past four or five years.”

In October, Ten Hag claimed that he was not worried by United’s lack of goals and he has since defended his forward options on a number of occasions. The Dutchman insisted that, with all of his players fit, he has enough firepower to win matches.

“I think Marcus scored five goals out of 11 games,” said Ten Hag. “Antony wasn’t involved in the first three games, but he has scored three in his first four appearances.

“Jadon Sancho has scored three goals, Ronaldo has scored two goals, so I think – and Martial, don’t forget him, three goals.

“We have players who can be productive, so as a matter of fact, it’s not a real concern. There are obviously many problems and we had to integrate many players.

“We had to deal with problems offensively from the start – Ronaldo was unavailable, Martial was not on the pitch and didn’t play a full game until now. I’m sure, when that is better, with two No.9s present and fit in a good combative shape, the results from the team will improve.”

While Ten Hag has been hesitant to discuss the Reds’ transfer activity, he will certainly be looking at players who could come in and help the side – either in January or more likely in the summer. With the club being heavily linked with PSV star Cody Gakpo – and the player seemingly keen on making the move from his homeland – it appears to suggest that the United boss is keen to add reinforcements to his ranks.

Neville clearly believes that United’s front players aren’t at the level needed to get the Reds back to the top, but Ten Hag has shown that he has the ability to help players improve. Marcus Rashford, for example, has looked revitalised under the Dutchman. However, it is clear that the club will need to strengthen, especially when Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the club next year.

Ten Hag doesn’t appear to take too much notice of what former players or pundits are saying about him or his players, but Neville’s comments were somewhat hard to disagree with, and the Dutchman might feel the same.

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