Manchester United were dealt a heavy setback in their hopes to finish in the top four when they suffered a shock goalless draw at Old Trafford during the weekend. The stalemate meant the twenty-time English top-flight champions, as it stands, are now the joint top in the league with the most draws this season with eleven, the same as relegation-threatened Middlesbrough.
To add the misery, the side needed a last gasp Zlatan Ibrahimovic effort to snatch a point at home to Everton.
When enigmatic tactician Jose Mourinho was brought in as Manchester United manager last summer, fans were expecting the Red Devils to get their attacking swagger back and score goals.
And while they did up the ante in terms of attacking, they are still plagued by poor finishing, especially at home, much like Louis van Gaal was last season – a record that led to his dismissal, despite spearheading the side’s winning of the FA Cup.
So what makes this United team unable to rise up to the challenge this time round? Here are three reasons why.
Too Much Emphasis on Playing on the Feet
Mourinho promised he would employ an attacking philosophy at Manchester United. While all that has been evident so far, with the deployment of the likes of Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Jesse Lingard in advanced midfield roles, it seems too much emphasis has been placed on playing on their feet.
True enough, 83% of the side’s passing this season at home has been short passes. Crossing, a United staple during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time as Old Trafford boss, comprises only 5% of the club’s passing so far.
Despite the attacking intent, there is still an air of pragmatism being instilled to the players, who are being told that safety is key.
This is more evident at home, where Mourinho’s side seem eager to save face and are worried about losing or conceding and thus, taking lesser risks. Indeed, a quick look at the stats show United only did three through balls this season, showing a lack of bravery that one side of United’s caliber should possess, especially when in front of their own fans.
Heavy Reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic
While much of the questions surrounding United’s midfield has already been addressed with the arrival of Paul Pogba, and the improvement of the likes of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini under Mourinho, there seems to be a scarcity in the front lines. With only one clear on-form striker in the squad, goal-scoring is bound to get really difficult.
Stats show that most of United’s goals this season have come from one man – Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has already scored 15 goals so far, scoring more goals than the club’s next top three scorers combined. Coming in second is Mata with six, then Pogba with four, and Mkhitaryan with three – Such stats coming courtesy of Australian online casinos.
Clearly, there is too much reliance on the Swedish super-striker and that problem has to be addressed.
Jose Mourinho Has Brought Back the Fear Factor of Playing Against Manchester United
While Mourinho has succeeded in bringing the swagger back at Old Trafford, it does come with a price – it means teams are no longer as keen to attack as in the previous two seasons.
Mid-table clubs no longer see United as vulnerable and prefer to sit deep and wait for the home side to attack. That tactic is clearly working as club after club are earning draws when, on paper, they shouldn’t have.
So far this season, away sides who come to Old Trafford have played long balls for 18% of the time. That’s a significant number as it increases the odds of teams scoring simply by “buying a ticket” – and they’ve managed to do so more often that they should.