After 22 games, Manchester United’s league position reads; 22 games, 11 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses. 33 goals scored and 21 goals conceded, on 41 points and 4 points off a Champions league place. The stark statistic is definitely the 8 draws that United has had. At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad for a mid-season read but when you consider the fact we have been in 6th position for over a month, then it makes for a weird feeling.
There’s no question that United under Mourinho are obviously so much better than in recent times but it seems the good performances have not fairly reflected in terms of results. United are now unbeaten in 13 premier league games which highlights our growth in terms of quality. However some reporters are referring to it as the most underwhelming unbeaten run since Brendan Rodgers’ 11 game unbeaten run some time back (Ouch!). United are ranked 3rd in terms of shots on target per game, just behind Liverpool and Spurs. However their conversion rate seems to leave a lot to be desired. Against stoke it was one such cameo where we had 25 shots on target as compared to Stoke’s 7. However all that was there to show was the drab 1-1 draw at the Bet365. The examples go on and on.. the 1-1 draw against Stoke, the draw against Arsenal and the Old Trafford blank against Burnley, bar Heaton’s performance.
So why are united not scoring goals? The obvious pointer would be the (over) reliance on Zlatan. The nexus between Zlat’s lackluster form and United’s inability to score during those times is anything but chalk and cheese. It’s just too telling. Credit to the big swede for coming on and bossing the league from the word go. His performances so far show his caliber and the quality of cloth that he has been cut from as far as the best finishers in Europe are concerned. His current return of 14 goals is nothing short of extraordinary considering his age. His fitness is also outrageous as he is yet to miss a single PL game through injury and has completed all games that he has started. If you take into consideration the fact that he is 35, then that statue can’t come soon enough eh? The next 3 united scorers have a combined goal total of 11 which again shows the Swede’s poaching ability.
However take away his goals and Zlatan sometimes he starts to look like somewhat of a liability. His movement is labored and outside the box his pass in the final third is wanting. His frustrations at not being able to score rubs off on the rest of the team and suddenly the whole squad is fidgety.
It is at this point that Rooney was supposed to come in and aid in goals. However this has not happened and his paltry return of 5 goals so far is a disappointment. We knew he was on the decline but not this much man. But take nothing away from his landmark goal last weekend (others will go into the argument of whether it was a cross or he was actually going for the far post). I am guilty of judging players in the now but Rooney’s record demands you go back and look at his achievements in the past 15 years of playing top level football and his record is astonishing. His goals were instinctive and spectacular. Well done Wayne. With Mourinho refusing to protect the future of his captain beyond the summer and with him playing second fiddle, perhaps the MLS would be a decent way to go off.
In terms of goals scored, we are 10 goals behind the next team in the top six. This has to change. More players need to take their chances and not just float the ball to the wings to fullbacks who are not trustworthy in terms of crosses.
United are also averaging a 55% possession. This is no surprise considering the manager. His area of specialty is on the counter and with speedsters such as Martial and Rashford we can see why he prefers the system as the pace and trickery of the two can get them past most PL full backs with ease. With Ibra hanging up the other end of the pitch, it looks like a solid plan. his treatment of Martial in terms of not even naming him on the bench against Stoke set tongues wagging. Let’s be real though. Stoke wasn’t Martial’s game, in terms of physicality. Mourinho has been known for his tough love character and the last time he tried that it has worked brilliantly with Micki. He also applied the same with Benzema and when the Frenchman came back, he was firing on all cylinders.. de ja vu maybe? Trust the Man.
However we have only won 48% of our aerial duels. At the start of the season, the fact that we had players like Ibra, Pogba, Jones, Smalling, Bailly, Fella *sic* was supposed to be the return of days past, the days when we bossed them due to our physicality but it seems this is just not happening. We just don’t seem aggressive enough when going for the aerial balls and in a league when winning the second ball is just as important as the first it seems more needs to be done in that department; both defensively and offensively. We have only scored 7 goals from set pieces and with players like Mata, Micki and Herrera whipping in those balls; surely more needs to be done.
Its very unlikely that we are going to get any new player in before the Tuesday deadline but with no new injury concerns, our current squad is more than capable of making us compete on all four competitions. A silverware and possibly a champions league place would be a satisfactory season for Jose. Best part about this is we can still say it’s his rebuilding season.
it’s difficult to attach one word to our performances so far. The proponents will point towards the addition of quality in the team and the fact that we are actually (almost) playing the united way. The opponents will claim the good performances are not translating to results and the fact that this is a result business so good performances don’t matter. They will also mention fact that apart from Spurs we are yet to claim a major top 6 side scalp.
It also depends with what way you want to view the glass.
Side bar; (late) Happy Birthday Jose!