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Erik ten Hag denies Højlund injury will derail Manchester United’s season

Erik ten Hag has denied that Rasmus Højlund’s muscle injury will derail Manchester United’s season, with the manager claiming it is naive to believe two strikers could have been signed in the summer owing to financial fair play constrictions and Anthony Martial’s “high” wage.

Højlund will miss up to three weeks, meaning United may be without their top scorer for five matches: Saturday’s Premier League visit of Fulham, Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round trip to Nottingham Forest and three other league games – at Manchester City and at home to Everton and Sheffield United.

Højlund has 13 goals in 30 matches for the club, including eight in his past eight appearances. Scott McTominay is the next highest scorer with nine, Alejandro Garnacho has seven and Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes five each.

Ten Hag is aiming to guide United to a Champions League finish. His team are five points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa and he was asked whether the Dane’s absence could derail this and United’s FA Cup challenge.

“Garnacho is scoring a lot of goals – seven,” Ten Hag said. “Rashy [Rashford] is capable, but he scores [only] five [so far]. In our last games, the frontline is an absolute threat, they score [so] is it Rasmus Højlund only?

“No, it’s Garnacho, also Rashford, Scott McTominay. Bruno can score. What gives me the confidence is that in autumn the frontline wasn’t scoring, they were not even a threat. At this moment they are in very good form and a threat continually. [Højlund] has lately been very important. But the main man? I don’t see it that way.”

Højlund was bought in the summer for £72m, with the club also signing André Onana for £44.1m and Mason Mount for £60m. Ten Hag was asked why he did not buy two strikers. At first he laughed this off.

“Ha ha, you are a football manager,” he said. “But it is not easy with money [restrictions owing to] FFP. Striker options are most difficult to fill, especially at our level.”

Martial had groin surgery in January and will be out for about another six weeks, the latest problem in an injury-plagued nine years at United.

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“He is also on high payment, in this club,” Ten Hag said. “So when you bring another one in [striker], you strike him out. So there are all arguments not to do it.”

Ten Hag was pushed on why a decision not to sign a second goalscorer was made on the basis of Martial’s high wage. “It is quite a naive thought you bring up,” he said. “Very naive. Strikers are not cheap, and when you have three strikers in your squad [Højlund, Martial, Rashford] and you bring a number four in, that means the prospects for the others will get short.”

Omari Forson, a 19-year-old forward who has made two substitute appearances for United, is an option to replace Højlund, along with Antony.

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