Anthony Martial could be handed a rare start at Everton on Sunday and Erik ten Hag has already given his striker clarity on what he needs in that role.
Manchester United's first-choice striker Rasmus Hojlund is a doubt for the trip to Goodison Park after suffering a muscular issue against Luton Town a fortnight ago. The 20-year-old withdrew from international duty but this weekend's clash may come a touch too soon.
Ten Hag admitted on Thursday evening that Hojlund will be assessed as late as possible, but his admission that "hopefully, next week, he will return to the squad" suggests United will play it safe. Martial has not started a Premier League game since September's 3-1 defeat at Arsenal, often replacing his Danish teammate in the dying minutes.
But the absence of Hojlund and poor performances of Marcus Rashford upfront could hand the 27-year-old a fresh chance to at least make a positive impression on supporters. And Ten Hag has already identified three key ways to do exactly that.
"When you have a player in your squad you have to expect he is available and the players have to take responsibility to be available but when he is not, I have to deal with the situation and we have shown we can be successful without that striker," Ten Hag said in July as his side looked for aNo.9 in the transfer market. "But, of course, it's easier when you have that striker in your team because every club who wins big trophies has scoring abilities in that team.
"We need a good squad and Anthony Martial is a brilliant football player, so he will help us score goals. And also in other areas like pressing and possession in combinations, he's a great player. So we hope he's fit and he stays fit."
Martial has been consistently disappointing for United in recent season but enjoys a decent record against Everton. The Frenchman has three goals against the Toffees since 2020 which, for a striker who has just 18 goals overall in that period, is encouraging.
Such is the frustration around Martial that United could opt against activating a 12-month extension to his contract as they see little resale value or market for his services. His current contract expires next summer and he would likely leave as a free agent.
But that is not to say he has no role to play before June and with Hojlund a potential absence, he could start by continuing his purple patch over Everton. Ten Hag has told him exactly what he needs on Sunday, and it is up to the player to provide that.