The numbers never really lie. At 33 goals scored by the turn of February, one who hasn’t watched Manchester United this season would be forgiven for concluding that the team still suffers from the sterile Louis van Gaal approach at finding the net.
The premier league is currently split into a top six, middle eight and a bottom six. As a member of the top six, United should only be judged as against their peers in that mini summit league. The Red Devils rank bottom of the pile on goals scored among the top six and whilst LVG banked on a clean sheet every now and then, United have not been as efficient defensively either.
Not that all this takes into account that United are collectively a better outfit than during the reign of the Dutchman. Indeed, for the purist who is in for the thrill of watching the Reds play every Saturday, the season has panned out quite well. It is generally more entertaining to watch Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
In that top six mini league I referred to, United rank top for ‘clear-cut’ chances created. The definition of a clear-cut chance has been passed on as ”one that carries a reasonable expectation of a goal”. Don’t ask what ‘reasonable expectation’ means! But you get the drill. In a league as supposedly difficult as the premier league, it takes a very good team to create several clear cut chances in every game they play. Chance creation, and good chances at that, are a credit to the creativity of the midfield and attack. In other words, it suggests that whatever deficiency your team has got, a creative midfielder is not one of them.
|Zlatan has missed the most clear cut chances in the league|
However, in the same top six mini league, United rank bottom for conversion of chances. Hell, United rank bottom in the entire 20 team league for chance conversion. A quick glance at the attacking options at United suggests that it is not necessarily a want of quality of attackers that is causing such seismic levels of profligacy. Indeed, we are led to believe that there is not enough room in the team for all of them. And yet, it is turning out that the club just doesn’t seem to have the ruthlessness required from its attack to guarantee the points that would have made a world of difference to the league season.
Whilst there has been an inquest into the games United have dominated but failed to win, a curious glance at the games in which United managed to put away at least one good chance to win the game ironically carry the same question mark. In the reverse fixture back in August, United had to wait until stoppage time to score what proved to be the winner. The New Years’ Eve come back win against Middlesbrough will not be remembered for the wastefulness in front of goal because United eventually rallied to get the pair of goals that they needed.
Point is, even when United win, it’s easy to pick out more than a handful of clear cut chances that go begging in-game. It’s an indictment on the quality of finishing but more worryingly smacks of a casualness with which chances are taken. It’s a terrible problem to have because unlike the problem of the style and system that was easily departed from under Louis van Gaal, this one is a tad more into the ‘software’ of a team’s make-up and is therefore much harder to isolate and hence solve.
For fans, the worst part is that it has happened over and over again, so many times over the course of the season that you cannot out-rightly state that a result as frustrating as a 0-0 draw with Hull City at Old Trafford will not happen again between now and May.
We do have the riches on the pitch, but we’re wasteful with them and not really making much of a case for our rich status. Profligacy is very much the resident noun at Old Trafford and every few weeks fans are left mulling over it.