Manchester United are not yet back on the road to greatness but something has been happening with the clubs attack this season which has seen Marcus Rashford achieve his best season in terms of scoring goals, Anthony Martial is well on the way to matching his best ever season for the club and academy graduate Mason Greenwood is showing his skill, desire, determination and hunger to achieve for the club he has played for since he was about six-year-old.
United, under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, are currently fifth in the Premier League table, five points shy of fourth-placed Chelsea. If recent poor results had been different, United could well be inside the top four in the league, which is where they want to be at the end of the season. United has played 33 matches in all competitions so far this season (this was written before the Emirates FA Cup replay with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on Wednesday).
So far, a total of 53 goals have been scored in all competitions, including two own goals which have helped United. It may not be a great number of goals, considering Liverpool has scored 77 goals in all competitions this season but they really are the benchmark this season, sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table 14 points ahead of reigning Champions Manchester City – and they have a game in hand yet. It seems likely that they will win the league this season, unfortunately.
Despite the discontent which can be seen aligned to the club if you use social media, there are some positives to look at, if you are able to see past the criticism and actually look at the changes which have been made since the summer. Solskjaer has a plan to rebuild the club and he wants to do it properly. Shortcuts have been taken since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and they have not worked. Patience is something that needs to be applied with the club for the foreseeable future.
The attacking trio of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood has been responsible for 39 goals in all competitions this season with a further ten goals being assisted by them. That is a big share of the 51 goals United have actually scored this season, which obviously does not include the own goals scored by opposition teams. The one think that really annoys me is the lack of creativity and the fact that reinforcements were not made in the summer, which has been costly.
In January 2019, Marouane Fellaini left the club for China – he was not replaced. In the summer, Ander Herrera left the club – he was not replaced. Both of these players needed to be replaced to keep the midfield deep in depth, which turns out would have been needed with all the injuries. Romelu Lukaku was sold and not replaced, although Mason Greenwood came into the squad and Alex Sanchez left on loan and was not replaced, although he really did not do much anyway.
United desperately need another striker, preferably one with experience, an attacking midfielder, and a defensive midfielder as the main priorities at this moment in time. That should really have been the minimum in the summer, added to the arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, and Harry Maguire. When you look at the goals scored by Rashford, 19, Martial, 11, and Greenwood, nine – you see that these players are rising in stature and dragging United out of the doldrums this season.
Rashford has already broken his best seasons at the club, the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons where he scored 13 goals in each season – he has scored six more goals so far this season. Martial with 11 goals is well on the way to reaching the same number of goals he scored in his debut season, the 2015/16 season where he scored a total of 17 goals. He scored 12 last season so has one more to get to match that and he has spent two months on the sidelines through injury.
Greenwood made his break into the squad last season, playing for times but made his breakthrough this season, so far playing a total of 26 times, scoring nine goals. He was used to scoring goals in the academy where he made a total of 52 appearances, scoring 49 goals and assisting 18 more. Obviously, he has had to step his game up a bit and seems to come off the bench more often than starting matches, but has impressed his teammates and the manager each time he has played.
When you look at the 39 goals and 10 assists that Rashford, Martial and Greenwood are responsible for and look at the likes of Liverpool, who have Mohamed Salah (14 goals, 8 assists), Sadio Mane (15 goals, 9 assists) and Roberto Firmino (9 goals, 9 assists) – totalling 38 goals and 26 assists this season – United’s trio of attacking players are not that far off matching those numbers. With better creativity behind them, and a change in formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, it could be a lot better.
For long spells of the season, United have been missing Paul Pogba, the player who was the top goalscorer last season, also for assists, chances created etc, has been a big miss in the team. There has been a lot of speculation surrounding his future, which is still buzzing around the media now. Scott McTominay has also missed a lot of football this season, which has left United scratching their heads in terms of how the team works. It is clear that buying players is the only main option to take.
Bruno Fernandes has been linked to the club again with speculation suggesting that a deal could be struck this month, but the same was said in the summer. This season, Fernandes has scored 15 goals and assisted a further 13, which does not mean he will create the same numbers at United from the start, if he is signed. Creativity is the key and getting that right will enable Rashford, Martial and Greenwood to increase their goals and assists which will be great for United.
Obviously, there are a lot of things that need to change in order for United to come through the other side as a team capable of challenging for the Premier League title once again. There is still lots of deadwood at the club which needs to be cleared out, players on high wages who has no desire to move to another club because they are well paid at United and that wage will not be met anywhere else – whilst these players are contracted, why would they have any desire to move on?
The club needs to formulate a plan to take the club back into the 21st century. a technical director or even a director of football needs to have full control over the footballing side of the business otherwise this rot will continue and before anyone knows it, the club will be back on the decline. The owners of the club either need to think about selling up or putting football over profits and seeing the team drive towards success on the pitch, which in turn will keep the profits coming in.
I think Solskjaer is doing his best – some may not see that as good enough but this is not FIFA or Football Manager, this is real life. The critics of every manager the club has had post-Ferguson have not achieved anything in the game. These are just people who lack patience and demand everything at the click of the finger, something they are not going to get. Patience is a virtue that needs adopting. Ferguson had opposition and look what happened there…