Manchester United have been told that Anthony Martial “is not a No.9, he is not a striker”, with Steve McClaren claiming that the Red Devils need better balance in their side and more leaders.
Issues in the final third of the field have been a source of concern for those at Old Trafford throughout the 2019-20 campaign.
Having taken the decision to part with Romelu Lukaku, an alternative approach has been taken in the attacking department.
Martial and Marcus Rashford have both led the line at times, while also operating in wider roles.
McClaren believes two energetic forwards are better suited to life on the flanks, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant has also suggested that United lack a commanding presence in the middle of the park.
“I think this is where he’s been struggling in this midfield and its blend and balance,” McClaren told Sky Sports of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
“It’s square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round holes. At the moment [Andreas] Pereira, who I’ve seen play as a No 10, is he a holder?
“Fred is getting better, more confident, but he likes to roam around. They’ve got nobody like a [Roy] Keane sat in there.
“Absolutely [Scott McTominay] could do that but he still goes and wanders, but at least he’s got the physicality to get around. So they’re missing somebody in there.
“They’ve signed [Bruno] Fernandes who they think is their No 10. A key role when you’re playing that kind of system.
“[Juan] Mata, great player. Best position? Don’t know, don’t know. Winger? No. James is still a young player finding his legs and the key one is Martial.
“Martial is not a No 9, he is not a striker. All his goals, all his best moments are on that left-hand side. Whether that’s outside left or whether that’s inside left, that’s where he plays.
“He cannot play down the middle on his own.”
While picking holes in United’s midfield and attack, McClaren has been encouraged by progress made at the back.
He added: “The first job is to get them characters of leadership, or people who can become leaders, back in at Old Trafford, back on that training ground.
“Because the inconsistency is an inconsistency of training day to day, Monday to Friday, where you need leaders continuously, continuously setting standards.
“When I look at that back four, [David] de Gea, [Wan-Bissaka] tremendous signing, [Victor] Lindelof getting better, [Harry] Maguire perfect, [Luke] Shaw, and the young boy [Brandon] Williams behind him is also a very, very good player.
“So the back five nice and solid and strong, what a base. You start from that, great base.”