Manchester United appeared to be void of energy in their recent match against West Ham and were clearly punished for it in their 2-0 defeat. It was the first time this season that United failed to score, but their lack of punishing play isn’t a new issue for the club. Fans may have previously expressed concern over the defense, but should now also be worried over United’s attacking play.
A goal a game for United
Since their 3-1 Champions League win over PSG earlier this year, United have scored just 17 goals in 19 games. In fact, only three of those games saw them score more than one goal. United used to score goals like they were playing videoslots, but those days seem like they are in the distant past with how they have been playing of late. For a club with the stature of United, this is a major worry. It’s also a notable decline from the success enjoyed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when he first took over as manager. While there was always a good chance that United wouldn’t keep up that pace, there’s no excuse for the level of drop-off that has occurred since. United’s shot-conversion rate was 17.8 per cent during Solskjaer’s first 17 games.
There hasn’t been much creativity in the side at all without the play of Paul Pogba. While the Frenchman isn’t without his critics, United’s big worry is that their best results and performances have been with Pogba pulling the strings in midfield. That’s particularly been the case since Solskjaer was brought in. Pogba created 11 chance from open play this season. United’s attack relies on the counter and taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes, which they engineered to perfection in the first game of the season against Chelsea. While they don’t lack pace up front, they’ve found it difficult to break down well-organised teams.
Lacking in both attack and defence
The attacking players aren’t scoring goals and they aren’t helping the defence, either. United has only won possession in the attacking third 19 times all season. Compared to the other teams that are challenging them for a place in the top fox, they aren’t faring well at pressing their opponents. While they are clearly talented players, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford’s strengths don’t lie in working hard off the ball. Anthony Sanchez was tasked to take on that role but failed miserably. Many United fans were only too happy to see the back of Romelu Lukaku and Sanchez, but are now left with a side lacking cohesion and versatility in both attack and defence. Their play is predictable and it isn’t easy to see how that is going to change in the near future.
Something needs to change or United face the possibility of finishing the season outside of the top six, never mind the top four. The severity of collapse from Solskjaer’s earlier games indicates that he may not be the man to turn things around.