Erik ten Hag was not entirely satisfied with Manchester United’s finishing despite comfortably seeing off Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
United returned to Premier League action following the World Cup and ultimately cruised to a straightforward victory that leaves them just a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.
First-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial sent United on their way before Fred rounded things off in the final minutes.
But United wasted several decent opportunities before Fred’s Casemiro-inspired goal, with Antony and Rashford spurning particularly good chances.
And that proved to be a key area of focus for Ten Hag after the game.
“It’s what I said in the dressing room, we have to score more goals,” he told Prime Video.
“We created so many chances and it takes us until just before the end to score the third goal. We need to finish this game in an earlier moment.
“Just after half-time we had two really good chances to finish the game. Life would be more easy.
“There are many games to come, [if you get a third goal then] you can then save energy and it is better for everyone, but also for the progress of the team, we need to be more clinical.
“We have players who can score.
“You can see Martial and Rashford are goalscorers; Bruno Fernandes scores goals. We have a lot of players who can score, but we have to be ruthless.”
Ten Hag has already confirmed United are keen to bring in attacking reinforcements during the January transfer window following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.
PSV forward Cody Gakpo was widely considered the most likely to arrive but it emerged on Monday that the Netherlands international is close to joining Liverpool after the two clubs agreed a fee.
Ten Hag was asked about Liverpool’s move for Gakpo, though he was unsurprisingly keen to avoid speaking about his compatriot.
“I don’t talk about individual cases,” he said.
“We are looking for offensive players, we are looking for a striker. It would be good because we have games coming, so many, every third day, and it’s tough.
20/20 – Cody Gakpo has scored 21 goals and provided 25 assists in 41 Dutch Eredivisie games since the start of last season; he is the only player in Europe’s top 10 leagues with both 20+ goals and 20+ assists since the beginning of 2021-22. Visionary. pic.twitter.com/BixDo4tGkv
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 27, 2022
“You want to play in all the competitions we are in, we want to stay in them hopefully until the end of the season, so you need numbers in the squad to cover them all.
“I think we are always in the market, but it has to match the sporting criteria and the financial criteria, and we do what we can to bring in what we need.”
While the Red Devils appear to have missed out on Gakpo, the August arrival of Casemiro proves United retain the ability to attract the best in the world.
The Brazil international was central to Tuesday’s win, brilliantly winning the ball back near his own corner flag in the build-up to United’s second goal before also inspiring Fred’s clincher.
Those two incidents fitted into the wider narrative of his all-round brilliance in midfield as he recorded a joint-high three key passes, attempted more tackles than anyone else (five) and was engaged in the most duels (11).
1 – Casemiro’s assist for Fred’s goal was the first time that two Brazilian players have combined for a Manchester United goal in the Premier League. Compatriot. pic.twitter.com/qcW7nPpQ2S
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 27, 2022
For Ten Hag, Casemiro is a blessing.
“I can’t deny that, I can only confirm,” Ten Hag replied when Casemiro’s importance was highlighted by a pundit. “It’s a pleasure to work with him.
“I think everyone can see how important he is. The performance, the level he brings to the team is huge.”
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