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Rashford, Martial, Greenwood... Where Are The Goals?

Bruno Fernandes continues to grab the goal scoring headlines - but Manchester United's forwards are struggling to hit the same heights.

 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 again.

 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. 

Marcus Rashford
 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. 

Mason Greenwood 
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). 

Anthony Martial 
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 Munich. 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 little package. 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 recently. "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.

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