MAURICIO Pellegrino faces a striker dilemma when Manchester United come to St Mary’s this Saturday – as his side bid to end a barren run for their frontmen.

With the club’s current forwards – Shane Long, Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin – contributing just one goal from open play in the last 18 games in all competitions – that’s 27 hours of football, Pellegrino needs to find the right man to lead the line for Saints and fast.

This comes as Saints prepare to take on United, who have the joint-best defence in the Premier League alongside neighbours Manchester City, having conceded just two goals in five games.

The Argentine is clearly not inclined to play two forwards together, as many supporters have hoped the manager would do to try and get Saints’ attack to click.

He started with Long up top in the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace last time out, after which the Republic of Ireland international, who made his first start of the campaign at Selhurst Park, stated that “goals come with game time”.

The 30-year-old proved under Ronald Koeman two seasons’ ago that with a run in the side he can be a valuable asset, as his ten-goal haul that term testifies.

Long, whose last goal in the Premier League came back in February in a 4-0 win at Sunderland, has barely got a sniff at regular starts since that heady campaign, but he’s craving an opportunity to prove his worth if it comes.

However, the Irishman clearly does not guarantee the regular goals Saints are desperate for.

There’s Gabbiadini, who set the Premier League alight with his stunning goal-scoring exploits on his immediate arrival from Napoli in the January transfer window last season.

Those six goals in the £14.6m man’s opening four appearances – including a brace in the League Cup final at Wembley, are a bit of a distant memory now, though.

The Italy international struggled to return to form after a groin injury kept him out of three games in April  and he’s not been able to build the same momentum since.

The 25-year-old is still, however, the owner of the single goal from open play by one of Saints’ current strikers since March 4.

That was the first goal in the 3-2 win over West Ham at St Mary’s in August, during which Austin scored a last-minute penalty to win the game for Saints.

Gabbiadini is clearly a man willing to put in the hard work and is always seen looking for a run to be fed in by one of Saints’ attacking midfielders, which is often a thankless task.

As Pellegrino has often said, goals are a collective responsibility and the lack of creativity from the attacking three behind the lone striker has partially been to blame for the goal issues.

Gabbiadini has been Pellegrino’s go-to man in the opening weeks of the season, before turning to Long against Palace.

However, the 45-year-old manager is yet to turn to the other striker on Saints’ books, Charlie Austin.

Despite spending the majority of the season sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, Austin ended up finishing last campaign as Saints’ top-scorer, with nine strikes in all competitions.

He played just 21 games in all tournaments and two of those were appearances at the end of the season when he was coming back from injury.

As the 28-year-old demonstrated in his only full Premier League campaign in 2014/15, when he netted an impressive 18 goals for a struggling QPR side, he can be prolific.

Austin, , whose only start this term was in the 2-0 defeat to Wolves in the League Cup at St Mary’s, has only managed 50 minutes of Premier League football in five games this term, though, so it’s hard to judge his form.

It could be, after giving Gabbiadini and now Long an opportunity to shine, Austin is next in line.

It doesn’t look entirely like this might be the case, however, after he was completely left out the squad that travelled to Palace.

Pellegrino has three options upfront – all of whom offer something different. Long is always full of running and is relentless, but not prolific. Gabbiadini is clearly talented but has been frustrated in recent weeks, while Austin is yet to fully get his chance.