Manchester United have a long-standing problem scoring goals

Manchester United have a long-standing problem in scoring goalsManchester United are not the team they used to be. Gone are the days where a Sir Alex Ferguson side would score goals for fun. If you look at the final three seasons under Ferguson, United scored 78 (2010/11), 89 (2011/12) and 86 (2012/13) Premier League goals. In the three seasons following, United seem to have fallen short, somewhat massively scoring 64 (2013/14), 62 (2014/15) and 49 (2015/16) Premier League goals. During the 2016/17 season which is now heading into the run-in, United have so far scored 43 Premier League goals, half of the tally scored in the 2012/13 season. Something is going drastically wrong for United, despite having the players who should be scoring more goals. If you look back at the last six complete seasons – three under Ferguson, one under David Moyes and two under Louis van Gaal, looking at the top scorers in the league may well show the comparisons. Just looking at the names mentioned in the first three seasons in the comparison could suggest that mistakes were made my the managers following Ferguson, which could be a reason the goal tally has decreased massively.

In the 2010/11 season, 78 goals were scored by United in the Premier League alone with the top three scorers being; Dimitar Berbatov (20), Javier Hernandez (13) and Wayne Rooney (11). The following season, United scored 89 goals in the Premier League, the top three scorers being; Rooney (27), Hernandez (10), Danny Welbeck (9). During the 2012/13 season, Ferguson’s final managing the club, United scored 86 goals, the top three scorers being; Robin van Persie (26), Rooney (12), Hernandez (10). During the 2013/14 season, the first post-Ferguson, under Moyes, United scored 64 Premier League goals, 22 less than the previous season, the top three scorers being; Rooney (17), Van Persie (12), Welbeck (9). Moyes was sacked before the end of that season, with Van Gaal coming in from the start of the 2014/15 season, United scored 62 Premier League goals, two less than the previous season, the top three scorers being; Rooney (12), Van Persie (10), Juan Mata (9). During Van Gaal’s final season, 2015/16, United scored just 49 Premier League goals, 13 less than the previous season, the top three scorers being; Anthony Martial (11), Rooney (8), Mata (6).

Straight away there, you can see that Berbatov (48), Hernandez (37), Welbeck (20), and Van Persie (48) have all left United, which has seen 153 total Premier League goals scored inside the previous six seasons leave the club, with those not being fully replaced. Granted, some of the players were not going to offer great goal tallies, but taking those goals away from the club and not replacing them, will have gone a long way to help United’s decline. Of the three top scorers for each of the six seasons, only Rooney, Mata and Martial remain at the club, all of whom have continued to score, but not at the levels needed to replace the missing goal for United. During the 2016/17 season, the first under Jose Mourinho, United have scored 43 Premier League goals after 29 matches being played with the top three scorers so far being; Zlatan Ibrahimovic (16), Mata (6), Paul Pogba (4) – which shows that the team still lacks the ability to score goals to the standards expected. If Ibrahimovic was not at the club or did not score at the rate he has, United would be much worse for wear in the goal scoring department.

Managers at the club post-Ferguson have tried to solve the problems in declining goals with David Moyes bringing in Juan Mata in January 2014, paying £37.1 million to Chelsea with the Spaniard scoring 27 Premier League goals to date. Louis van Gaal paid £59.7 million to Real Madrid for Angel Di Maria, who left a year later, scoring three Premier League goals. That summer also saw a loan deal for Radamel Falcao, who scored just four Premier League goals. These were players that should have made an impact but didn’t – something which will be looked back upon with disgust by many, especially in the amount spent on these players wages. The following summer, still looking for reinforcement, Van Gaal brought in Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for £25 million, the Dutchman scoring just twice in the Premier League and sold to Lyon by Mourinho 18 months later. Anthony Martial arrived on transfer deadline day for £36 million, scoring 14 Premier League goals to date and the third most successful new signing, other than Ibrahimovic, of course. It is a start for United, but work needs to be done to find the balance in the team, and more importantly, the goals.

Former Manchester United captain and right-back Gary Neville, now working for Sky Sports, spoke about the lack of goals being scored by the club after the 0-0 draw against West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Saturday. United should be doing so much better than they are. They are on a 20 match unbeaten run in the league this season, but when you dissect that, you see United have won only half of those matches, drawing the other half. If you look at United’s results in the league this season, you will see a total of twelve draws in the 29 matches played, nine of those being at Old Trafford, three on the road. United sit in fifth place, three points clear of Arsenal, meaning a win for them on Wednesday evening, will sink United back into sixth place once more. United are four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, meaning their chances of earning a top four place this season are getting slimmer as each game, or draw if you look at it that way, passes. Neville spoke to Sky Sports about United’s lack of goals, saying:

“The good thing is when you can easily identify your problem. They have had too many draws against teams they should be beating. They just lack that killer instinct.

“Against Burnley they had something like 35 shots. It has happened so many times. The Bournemouth game was incredible. If you add those dropped points up and add them to their current tally, they would be in serious business.

“In some ways, when you can easily identify your weaknesses and where you need to strengthen, that’s a good thing. I’m sure that is how Jose will be looking at it.

“At this moment in time too many mistakes have been made and I think Jose will know that. His frustration with his strikers after the game on Saturday was real.

“They need quality, more subtlety and more killer instinct in the final third. The positive is he knows where to improve. He needs players capable of winning matches for him. The ones currently up top are not doing that.

“I think he’s lining it up. You think about the sales of Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay for around £40 million.

“There’s talk of Antoine Griezmann and I’m sure other clubs will be after him as well, but Jose must be lining up for another big summer.

“It’s not just the attack because there are some shortcomings in defence too. They need a centre-back, they need a holding midfielder. I think five or six will come in, with two or three going.”

Jamie Carragher, Neville’s counterpart on Monday Night Football at Sky Sports, also spoke about the subject, lauding Zlatan Ibrahimovic for his part in United’s somewhat success this season, but also suggesting that other players need to feel embarrassed that a 35-year-old striker in the twilight of his career has in effect shown them up. Carragher told Sky Sports:

“Zlatan has that personality and presence but I feel it’s a bit embarrassing for those other players that they need a 35-year-old centre-forward.

“It’s a big worry, the fact these young players go in there and can’t seem to cope, it doesn’t bode well for them and I think that’s Mourinho’s frustration.

“When you play at the top-level, if you get a chance you must take it.”

Rio Ferdinand, another former captain and central defender at Manchester United also spoke of the problem his former side have faced this season, and the previous three. Speaking to BT Sport after the 1-1 draw with Everton at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, Ferdinand spoke about his former club not putting teams away, especially at home, which is something they seem to be struggling with.

“At home, you’ve got to put teams away. Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] had chances in the first half and he should score. Balls flashed across the six-yard box but there was no player there to finish it off.

“There’s little details that define teams and at the moment they haven’t got that ruthless cutting edge in this team. That’s the thing that’s holding them back.”

Jose Mourinho seems to have his work cut out this summer to find the balance that other Premier League teams seem to have in their squads. United need goals. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being linked with LA Galaxy again, just a week after saying he never leaves a job unfinished, which will see United lose more goals, needing correct investment in the right players to bring that to the club. There is a decent core of the team with the likes of Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial who are all youthful enough to stabilise the team for the next few seasons at least. Mourinho has spoken about an interesting summer which may not bring him his first options, but there will be something happening to improve the team ahead of the new season, where Mourinho’s side will be expected to contend for the Premier League title, which is destined to head to London this season, with Chelsea in the driving seat and Tottenham Hotspur in with a chance, albeit through the back door, to challenge Antonio Conte’s team this season.

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