Solskjær backs Martial to get 20 goals for Manchester United for first time

Jamie Jackson in Bruges
Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes Anthony Martial can be the first Manchester United player to break the 20-goal barrier since Romelu Lukaku two seasons ago.

Martial scored his 14th of the campaign in Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Club Brugge in the Europa League last-32 opening leg. His highest total for United is 17, in 2015-16. He was fielded then as a centre-forward by Louis van Gaal – before Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival the following season – and Solskjær is also using him in that position.

Related: Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Marcus Rashford was comfortably on course to score 20 goals but sustained a serious back injury when one away from that mark and may not play again this season.

Solskjær, asked whether Martial could score 20, said: “I think Anthony can step up, get a few more and get to the 20 mark. Definitely. He’s got quality of course, he’s a very good finisher. He takes his chances really well. There’s good technique in his finishing. He’s good receiving the ball at times and dropping off. He can play almost like a false nine as well. Sometimes I’d like him to be stronger physically.”

Martial also struck the opener in Monday’s 2-0 win at Chelsea, a header that was the kind of poacher’s striker Solskjær is encouraging from his forwards.

The manager said: “It was a 1980s centre-forward goal. Yeah, definitely [I want more of those]. I’m encouraged by his attitude this season as well, wanting to do those things that are not natural for him. You’ve got to make him a No 9 again after playing wide for so many years [under José Mourinho]. Anthony and Marcus have played wide for a few years until the last 12 months really.”

Scott McTominay is in contention for Sunday’s visit of Watford, having recovered from a knee injury. “He had a rest day [Thursday] so let’s see how he is,” said Solskjær, before describing what the midfielder can offer. “He’s a physical specimen. He’s a leader, he never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him. He can sit with Nemanja [Matic] or Fred, or he can be one of the runners in midfield. We’ve [been] talking about that today – that we don’t have that many runs past the striker. He used to be a striker before so he’s used to being in the box.”

The futures of Angel Gomes, who is 19, and the 20-year-old Tahith Chong are in the balance, as both are out of contract in the summer. “We’re still in talks with them,” said Solskjær. “Tahith scored [on Thursday for the reserves]. He’d rather play a game than sit in the stands [at Bruges]. He’s just making sure that he’s ready when he gets a chance. He played really well against Wolverhampton in the FA Cup and I’m very pleased with him. The boys have got a great attitude. They’re absolutely top-class boys and we’re doing what we can to keep them because in a few years we can see them becoming very very good players.”