Opinion: Looking at Manchester United’s lack of goals last season – assessing what the club has

Louis van Gaal

With Radamel Falcao returning to AS Monaco after an underwhelming loan spell at the Red Devils it opens up a space in the squad for a striker. United are in a decent position with options in the area already. However, after a season that ranks the amount of goals scored by United second bottom of all season in the Premier League it may be time to strengthen our striking options. Top goal scorer of the recently ended season Wayne Rooney (14) is still with the club and has scored these goals while sometimes being used as a central midfielder. Robin van Persie had an injury hit season but still managed 10 goals this. Nobody can argue with his eye for goal when he is fit so he is still a possible choice for next season.

This season United have had players who have been able to chip in and score from midfield. Juan Mata scored 10 goals as his form improved in the second half of the season. Ander Herrera had a fantastic start to his United career with 8 goals through the season. A massive turn around in fortune for Marouane Fellaini saw him hit the back of net for the first time in a United shirt. He finished with seven goals in all competitions this season. If we take into consideration that the club has announced the signing of Memphis Depay already the threat of goals from supporting players becomes stronger.

Depay was the top goalscorer in the Eredivisie last season with 22 goals. With all this being said United would be looking to find a striker who can provide a real goal threat and challenge for the golden boot in the Premier League. So here is a list of possible options that club have at their disposal now and possible transfer targets that have been linked with the club.

Current Options

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney will retain his position in the team next year as well as the captaincy. When discussing Wayne Rooney the question always arises of where he plays best on the pitch. Is it upfront? Is it behind the striker? Is it in central midfield? Wherever he plays he puts a shift in. Having played 479 times for United and scoring 230 goals his importance in the attacking third of the pitch is invaluable. If we look back on Rooney’s career with the Red Devils we can see he constantly scores over 10 goals a season. However, one season stands out in my mind when I think of Rooney as a striker. This season was the 2009/2010 season. I remember Rooney being used as central striker for the vast majority of this season.

It is also reflected in the statistics, Rooney played 32 times in the Premier League with a return of 26 goals. This is an incredible return from the United star and a tally he has only been able to better once for United. The time he scored more goals he was also used often as a central striker this was in 2011/2012 when he scored 27 times in 34 appearances. These statistics highlight to me that when the team needs Rooney to be the main man upfront in the past he has been able to step up to the plate and deliver. With the current situation at United and where Rooney is in his career perhaps it is time to leave him in the position behind the striker where he has played the majority of times in recent years for United. This position seems to suit Rooney’s abilities and allow him to score goals and create chances for others.

Robin van Persie

A lot has been written in the press about Robin van Persie over recent weeks. Reports of crisis talks about his future at the club have been constantly suggested. The problem with Van Persie is he is starting to come into the last stretch of his career. He faces a tough decision between moving to a different club, perhaps without the ambitions United do, and playing week in week out or becoming a rotation player at United. Watching Van Persie play this season has been tough at times. He has seemed slow and lacking the movement needed to create the space for himself to score. After a World Cup summer Van Persie did not get much time to recover from the season before.

At the age Van Persie is this can take a toll. An injury before the World Cup and focus on getting fit for that tournament may mean that he rushed back into action for that. With the injury problems he has had over this season it certainly seems the case. With all this being said Van Persie was the joint second goal scorer this season for Manchester United. If Van Persie were willing to accept a lesser role in the team nobody would be shocked to see him stay as his quality and class can still not be questioned, if other things can be.

Javier Hernandez

Cast your mind back to May 2011, Manchester United won 4-2 at home to Blackpool to round off a title-wining season. It was the first season at the club for Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. In his first season Chicharito started 21 games and scored 17 goals. Not a bad start for a player in their first season in the Premier League. The amount of goals he scored made him the second highest scorer for the team that season, one behind Dimitar Berbatov who started more games. The next two seasons brought 14 and 13 goals for the Mexican respectively. The signing of Robin van Persie in the second of those put Chicharito’s starting place in jeopardy. When David Moyes took over the club he was used vastly as a substitute and managed nine goals in just 12 starts. Then when Van Gaal took over he has been sent out on loan to Real Madrid where he has again been mainly used as a substitute. It looks like his time at Old Trafford could be over this summer, which is unfortunate for a player who can find the back of the net consistently and the fans love. Rumours suggest that he will be used in a deal to bring in a star player.

James Wilson

James Wilson is a player with a lot of potential. Is he ready for the first team at the moment? The general feeling around the club is that he needs game time before United can see him as a real contender to challenge for first team football. At the back-end of last season there was a suggestion that he was going to go out on loan and Derby County were rumoured to be interested. I believe that a deal will be done with a Premier League team for Wilson to play there for the coming season, perhaps a team that have just been promoted. There has been a suggestion in the media that Darren Fletcher has recommended Wilson to the staff at West Bromwich Albion so that could be the destination for this hot young prospect. This will give him time on the pitch and the opportunity to fulfil some of his potential.


Looking at the current strikers on offer I believe that Rooney and Van Persie will remain at the club. Van Persie will not be guaranteed first team football moving forward due to his age and injury problems. I think Chicharito will leave the club and seek first team football elsewhere. The youngster Wilson will go out and look for regular football in England for a year and hopefully come back a better player. This means that the club will need to look for a striker to bring in and join the squad. The first thing the club need to decide when looking at players to sign is they system they are going to use. Van Gaal has seen some success using a 4-3-3 in the second half of the season.

He has used one holding midfielder and the other two have been able to push forward and create in the final third. This is why players like Fellaini and Herrera have been able to score goals over this season. If they decide this is the formation they wish to proceed with they would have to use Rooney as the out-and-out striker in the front three. This would mean they would be in the market for a player to use as rotation, possibly a younger player. The other option would to play either a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 so they have somebody behind the striker. If they are looking to use Rooney behind the central striker they will be looking at striker with a bigger reputation and a proven track record. The next section is focusing on potential transfer targets that are already in the Premier League.

This article was researched and written by Alan Brown. You can follow him on Twitter.

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