Manchester United nil. It is becoming a familiar phrase to hear write and see and it doesn’t seem to be making anybody happy. Being hard to beat is not the kind of consolation that brings cheer to the fans of our club. Louis van Gaal’s team have won only once in October and a key month has exposed crucial failings.
Leaving the Wayne Rooney crucifixion to one side for a minute, United are simply not scoring enough goals. The stats for the month read, played five, won one, drawn four, lost one with just four goals scored and three conceded.
The problem is not that United are a bad team at the moment, they guilty of an even worse crime than that. They are boring. The last manager who produced a Manchester United team guilty of the same charge was Dave Sexton. He is now worthy of only the briefest of mentions in the history books, in between Frank Stapleton and Gary Birtles perhaps.
There can no longer be any debate the team are short on firepower. The general consensus is that Van Gaal has bought and sold well, despite offloading an entire striking department in the summer. However, our main threat from the bench is still Marouane Fellaini and reports suggest Barcelona are not terrified at the prospect of meeting United in Europe this year.
Alan Pardew seemed to suggest that Wayne Rooney would score more if he were presented with more chances. This would go along with Paul Scholes’s assertion that United aren’t creating enough for strikers.
This morning’s Manchester Evening News makes the excellent point that the tactics could do with a reshuffle. Van Gaal spent most of the summer tour talking about playing 4-3-3 this season with Rooney through the middle.
Forgive me said the blind man, but isn’t that 4-2-3-1 I see every week with two holding midfield players? There are arguments to say our selection of midfielders doesn’t have the mobility to operate in that formation. Something needs to change though and giving 4-3-3 a whirl for a few games would do no harm.
There is irony in me writing this of course. I am fully aware that just ten years ago United fans were chanting “Four Four Two” and bemoaning the tactical influence of Carlos Quieroz.
In an ideal world, United would sweep all before them playing glamour football every week. The financial realities of the way the club’s finances are structured though, means that they simply cannot afford to fall into catastrophic decline.
The nature of the club now means that a safety first approach must be adopted and that has translated itself into playing style on the pitch too. This has resulted into a fairly grim week of viewing. There might have been some fascination in watching two assured defensive units in the Manchester derby, but watching Palace tear into us with a winger we offloaded, Wilf Zaha, was a bit too much to take. That’s right, Crystal Palace currently have more panache than Manchester United.
Are there reasons to be cheerful? Yes. Chelsea are out of it and we are still vaguely in touch at the top. Even the teams above us have displayed clear failings this term and no sure-fire winner for the league has emerged as yet.
At the start of October United were top and in with a shout of every trophy. Now they are four points adrift having just played City and Arsenal, their main title rivals, and miserably out of the League Cup already. That can only look like a failure and Van Gaal knows it.
November has to be better.
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