Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged Robin van Persie to beat the 37 goals he scored for Arsenal last season in the wake of the striker starting his Manchester United career with seven in eight appearances.
Two of those came in Tuesday evening's 2-1 win at CFR Cluj in the Champions League. If Van Persie can manage more than in the last campaign he would near United's recent best of 42 by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007-08.
Ferguson said he "would love" Van Persie to beat his mark of 37 goals and added: "I think that, in my experience, where we are at the moment you need two strikers who are going to get you over 20 goals a season. If you get that, you definitely have a really good chance."
After the win over Cluj Van Persie said he hopes to provide more assists. Although Wayne Rooney created both goals, Ferguson believes the Dutchman has the same ability. He said: "He is a good passer of the ball. I think he's got good vision in his passing, too. The goal he made last week for [Shinji] Kagawa against Tottenham is evidence of his passing ability. I'm quite happy with what he's doing at the moment. But the refreshing thing for me is that he's not actually had any pre-season games, which is quite remarkable having seven goals from seven games [sic], so I'm pleased with that and I think his fitness will improve even more maybe."
Rooney, who returned 35 goals in all competitions last year, played alongside Van Persie at Cluj, with Javier Hernández the lone forward. Of Rooney's role Ferguson said: "In the last couple of years he's played that position a lot, in behind the striker. With Chicarito [Hernández] occupying their two main central defenders, it gave Rooney and Van Persie a bit more space."
With Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick back in the squad for Sunday's trip to Newcastle United, Ferguson added that Chris Smalling should return from his metatarsal injury following next week's international break. "I certainly think Smalling will have done enough training on the football side – he'll start the football side on Monday," he said.
Jonny Evans has recovered from the recurrence of a leg problem he suffered against Cluj.