striker hunt | 

Gary Neville with a message to Man United's owners after their latest win

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: Tuesday January 3, 2023.© PA

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Manchester United’s continued to build momentum as they beat Bournemouth 3-0 home at Old Trafford, with Gary Neville suggesting this new dawn may be one signing away from lift off.

Ten Hag suggested “belief is growing” at United after Marcus Rashford scored for a fourth consecutive game to add to earlier strikes from Casemiro and Luke Shaw as United made it four wins in a row in the league, and 13 in the last 16 in all competitions.

The victory left United fourth, one point behind rivals Manchester City, who head to Chelsea on Thursday before their next league appointment comes in the derby at Old Trafford on January 14.

United’s recent form is a match for almost anyone, but Ten Hag tried to brush off a question about the title race.

“That’s a big step,” he said. “We have to go game to game, get the progress.

“Belief is growing and that’s a good sign, it’s good to have that feeling but we have to understand and be able to give 100 per cent in every game – 100 per cent energy, 100 per cent focus, 100 per cent playing as a team.

“If you keep that philosophy it’s possible but we have to go game to game and don’t think too far ahead. It’s now January so it’s not even half a season we are talking about.”

The latest win inspired United great Gary Neville to suggest Ten Hag is in a strong position after winning his stand-off with Cristiano Ronaldo and building some momentum in his first season at the club.

"Ten Hag is in a very strong position to call the shots now, but they need to get him a striker,” said Neville on Sky Sports.

"Still only 17 games gone. A long way to go, anything can happen.

"But they look like they have a bit more experience about them in the midfield. (Christian) Eriksen in midfield, Casemiro and (Bruno) Fernandes. It looks wiser.

"Rashford is in form and coming through that situation with Cristiano Ronaldo, the situation with Harry Maguire, coming through the difficult poor start to the season. They have all bonded. They need to get him a striker now.”

United secured what was a comfortable win despite only occasionally hitting top gear, with Casemiro’s goal the only shot on target in the first half.

Shaw created and finished the second, bursting from his own half, shifting the ball right and applying the finish when Alejandro Garnacho rolled in a low cross.

David De Gea then made saves to deny Philip Billing and Jaidon Anthony before Rashford finished things off in the 86th minute.

Ten Hag – who will wait until Wednesday for more information on a potentially serious injury to Donny van de Beek – said it had been far from a perfect performance and warned his team they needed to play smarter in the future.

“I think we have two top departments, attacking and defending, and a big gap in between, and that cost us a lot of energy,” he said. “We got into a tennis match and we don’t want to play tennis, we want to play football.

“We want to keep the ball, keep possession, recognise when to speed up and go for goal, but it cost us too much energy. The backline took a lot of risk and when it was difficult to get back we got stretched.

“It’s the next step we have to make and we are still in the process.”

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