Red Thoughts: Why aren’t Manchester United scoring more goals?

by Red Debate

Is it just bad finishing, or are there more complex reasons why United are not scoring many goals? The Red Thoughts team examine the issues.

REX: How are we to score more from different players when we have one target man?! Other than Mata’s late runs, most chances fall to Ibrahimovic’s feet, which is the way the plays are  designed. Everyone else either has to play out wide, even though arguably their best positions are up front or behind him. So how can we expect goals all around from players who were meant to be the supporting cast? Free kicks are all being taken by the big man. So for arguments sake, if we get Griezmann, where does he fit into this system where the big man up front is the main man? Play him out wide as well? If you play out wide long enough even though you’re a striker, your goalscoring touch tends to be affected, not for the better either. We need a balance in this team to score more. Players need to be used in their proper slots.

CARL: I don’t think that’s the issue, the rest get plenty of opportunities but just aren’t taking enough of them. I love Pogba, but he’s been very poor in is his finishing, Mkhi in the last 2 or 3 games has missed a number of chances too, Rashford does also. Mata missed a great chance against Stoke. It’s been happening a lot this season. Where they start is not the issue, they’re getting into the positions to score and not finishing them off. Rashford started up front against Reading and yes, he scored two goals, but he missed about 3 good opportunities before he finally got the breakthrough. Against better opposition he wouldn’t have had the extra chances.

REX: Perhaps they all just need shooting practice! Zlatan’s conversion rate is not that great either compared to chances/shots.
CARL:​ They do all need to improve their finishing, definitely. We should have a higher goals-for tally this season than we have. We can’t expect any player to be in form constantly every match and when Zlatan has a poor game then the entire side struggle to score, even if they have a host of good chances. It’s concerning, because how do you improve that? Practice can only help to a certain degree, it’s more about mentality/composure. Mkhi should score plenty because he never had an issue finding the net in Germany.

BETS: There does seem to be too much reliance on Zlatan. I thought he had a really bad game against Stoke, yet I think he’s unsubstitutable because the whole system is about getting it in to him. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in theory, but with a 4-3-3 you need someone breaking from midfield to make up the numbers in the box, to be a false number 10, and all too often this season, we’ve looked short in numbers in the box when the crosses come in.
We need to play 4-2-3-1 at home and against easier teams, and use the 4-3-3 only in the toughest matches. If we have a world class defence and we’re playing a team who’ll be happy with a draw, we don’t need the luxury of someone sitting in front of the defence to protect them.

Especially as you mention, if we’re going to buy Griezmann, I think we need that no. 10 role re-instated, whether we have Mata at no. 10 and Griezmann and Mkhi on the wings, or either of the other two at no 10 with Martial coming in for Mata. 4-2-3-1 would also allow us to rest Zlatan sometimes and have Rashford up front running on to the flick ons etc created by the no. 10.

CARL: Griezmann is wasted on the wings, the stats say it doesn’t appeal to him. Best to use him in a two forwards system and a diamond 4-4-2 seems the best solution I can think of that gets most of the key players into their preferred positions.

RICK: I think we’ve had problems getting goals from midfield since Ronaldo left the club. We’ve just been blessed with strikers who’ve been consistently scoring loads of goals to reduce the burden. Since the days of Scholes, Giggs, Ronaldo and Beckham we’ve never really been blessed with lots of goalscoring midfielders.

The players need to have some more composure and concentration in finishing off the chances. Maybe they should get a psychologist to help them with that mental part of the game.

HEMOR: Look at Barca; Suarez is the main striker but Neymar still contributes about 20+ la Liga goals, while Messi contributes 40+ la Liga goals. At Real Madrid, Benzema is the main striker, but Ronaldo who plays on the wing always scores more than him. Bale also contributes 20+ goals from the wing. Same thing with Atletico, Griezmann plays as a supporting striker or on the wings but he scores more than the main striker.

All players need to improve their conversion rate and decision making because sometimes they try to play one more pass instead of taking the shot.

BETS: I think it’s an aspect of Ander Herrera‘s game that he can improve on. He could maybe get into the box a bit more often, especially with a late run. He has a few shots from outside the box but rarely do you see him in  it.

Regarding Zlatan, Maybe modern football has moved on from the big target man approach. Maybe it’s now more about quick bursts of pace, maneuverability in tight spaces, close control, deft skills and quick thinking. Zlatan is world class, but is he world class of a dying breed? And maybe Rashford’s style is more the future of football?

REX: In the same context, what happened to our 1-2 passing?! That used to cut open defences. It’s almost as if everything has to be ball to feet, then hold on to the ball and try something intricate to score. No one is doing the give and go anymore. With guys who have speed like Martial, Marcus and Henrikh, you have to wonder why not more of that?! And don’t get me started with Pogba and the amount of time he takes on the ball instead of just passing the damn thing!!

HEMOR: Pogba needs to quickly learn that in the EPL you can’t be spending several minutes on the ball. I love watching 1-2 short passes. Apart from Mata and probably Mkhi I don’t think the rest of our forwards are very good with short passes. I’ve seen Rooney and Zlatan attempt short pass and fail. We need to work on that.

REX: Pogba pisses me off so badly!! It’s like he doesn’t trust the rest of his teammates to do their jobs!! There’ll be an open man with an easy 5 yard pass, but he’ll not use him, turn around into defenders, try to beat them, then he gets robbed and an entire attack goes to shit!! Just pass it man!! If they don’t have an option they’ll give it back to you!!

JIM: I want to see Rashford up top as his finishing ability is lethal, Griezmann playing centrally if and when we get him with Mikhi and Pereira on the wings. It’s about time Pereira got his opportunity in the first team when his loan spell ends.

DAN: Our shot conversion rate hasn’t been that good for a while, even before Jose. It’s pretty simple: the others around Zlatan have to pick goals up too. We are used to having CBs scoring, midfielders picking up double figures and a strike partnership that picks up 40-50 goals a season. We are just over half way through, our top scorer has 19 and the next closest has 7 – Juan Mata. I think in certain games, tweaking the system may help – getting a Rashford and Martial up top, with him not wide but centrally. We rely on our full backs to get width. We don’t have any natural wingers so why not play a diamond with the holding CM Carrick doing what he did for years under Fergie, becoming a 3rd CB? If Carrick doesn’t play I feel blind could do that role. Let Pogba and Herrera go do what they do, then you have Rooney/Mata/ Mhkitaryan playing at point of the diamond.

FAB: Zlatan did have a poor game against Stoke but it’s not all his fault. For me key in our current team is the way our wing players are doing their job. Martial was dropped and we used Mkhi and Mata on the wings, with Rashford on the bench. I hope it’s not true that there has been a fallout between Jose and Martial, as it would be a real shame if he doesn’t feature any more.

It seems to me that Mkhitaryan doesn’t play to his full potential when playing on the wing. I have watched a few of his moves in the last couple of games and it’s the same every time. When going up front on the wing, he doesn’t seem to handle the opposition and loses the ball immediately, but when going through the middle we see a different Mkhi, as the player looks more natural in what he does. The same goes with Mata… he had his worst game in a Red shirt and his lack of defensive abilities, the reason why Jose doesn’t tend to pick him, is becoming more clear to me. As for why United aren’t scoring, again I’d blame the wings and this time our two full backs. Valencia didn’t have a good game against Stoke and that affected us a lot, and on the other hand it seems to me that Blind isn’t comfortable in that LB role. In tough games, the breakthrough comes from the wings and this hasn’t been working. Ibra needs someone to help him with his work and based on the system we are using right now, things should be changed. Luke Shaw could offer this to us, but to be honest I am not convinced by the others.

As for Rashford, his pace is incredible and something we really need.

The system seem good to me, but the players that are trying to fit into it are having a lot of trouble up front. For me, one of the biggest issues to resolve is the lack of attacking skills coming from the LB position. For me that’s the real problem.

RICK: We do actually have goal scorers in the team but for one reason or another, be it mental, shooting practice or just not being fully composed, they are not finishing off their chances.

As for our defenders, I’ve never known a time before when United have literally no one who can score out of all our defenders. Plus, our full backs can’t cross for shit right now. Valencia used to get the odd goal but since moving to RB, they have dried up. So for me, the most worrying part of this whole goal scoring scenario is we have no one in defence who can get us goals if our strikers are struggling. Whereas if you look at the other top four teams they all have defenders who chip in with the odd goal when needed.

BETS: Too true, and if it wasn’t for Steve Bruce’s goal scoring ability, history might have been very different. Speaking of 1992-93, our speed on the counter attack, and one touch football (as you guys mentioned earlier) is woeful. Look at this you tube clip. It is a perfect example of exactly what we’re not doing:

RICK: For speedy counter-attacks you need the right players to execute them. Normally pacey wingers and quick passing. We don’t have that. Even when we do, the players hold the ball for too long or don’t make the pass or make the right pass. Martial especially and sometimes Pogba have been guilty of that. As for Rooney, he plays crab football like LVG. As soon as it gets to him the whole play falls dead.

DAN: Part of the problem with CBs scoring is we actually have no-one who can take a decent corner or whip a decent free kick in. We don’t actually give our big guys a chance to attack the ball off set pieces. How often do we score from corners? I think the last corner we scored from was Pogba against Leicester.

RICK: When Rooney was our corner taker there was some stat flying around that we had never scored from a Rooney corner for two years. That’s ridiculous, especially for a side with the height we have.

CARL:  We are crap at set-pieces both defensively and in attack.

DAN: I’ve seen amateur players whip in better corners than we take.

BETS: I think fatigue is maybe becoming an issue as well. Zlatan and Pogba and maybe Herrera as well. 4 competitions, every game? Plus we’re short again in midfield with Schneidy going and Schweini out of favour. If Pogba and Herrera were both injured/suspended at the same time, we’d be screwed.

RICK: Which is why I don’t get why he didn’t sub them earlier in the Hull game when we drew level. They weren’t playing well and we needed to avoid conceding.

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