Erik ten Hag has admitted he would have started Anthony Martial, had the Frenchman been fit for the season opener against Brighton & Hove Albion.
The forward, who enjoyed an encouraging pre-season campaign leading the line, picked up a problem during the friendly against Atletico Madrid in Oslo.
It meant he was sidelined for the visit of Graham Potter’s side and, with Cristiano Ronaldo not fully match fit after getting his first pre-season minutes under his belt in the first half of the draw with Rayo Vallecano, a major switch was required on Sunday.
New signing Christian Eriksen was pushed into a ‘false-nine’ role for his competitive debut and only reverted back to a deeper position after Ronaldo was introduced from the bench during the second half.
Ten Hag told reporters that moving Rashford into the middle was an option he strongly considered, but he wanted to keep the Academy graduate on the left after his form on tour.
The boss was pressed on the situation during his press conference and asked about the latest in a long line of players to be linked with the club in Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic.
“I don’t go into names because I think, in this pre-season, 250 players are involved or linked to Man United,” replied Ten Hag. “So that’s it.
“We have two strikers, maybe a third one with Rashford as well, you could see him as a striker.
“He had a really good pre-season on the left side and also today had two really good chances, coming in from the left side, so I think it was the right decision to do it like this.
“But we didn’t have the typical nine. He was not available today.”
Hopefully, Martial will not be out for too long, with Brentford up next for United, on Saturday teatime.
“If he was available – the striker – I would have played him,” admitted Ten Hag, referring to Martial.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has now, for 10 days, [been] team training, that is too short for 90 minutes. That’s the reason he didn’t start.”