“Go and get Kane from Spurs. Easy, just go and get him. He’d score 20 goals a season for you with his eyes closed.”
So said Roy Keane a few weeks ago after arguably United’s best performance of the season, drawing 1-1 at home to Liverpool. You’d expect Keane, as a midfielder, to have spotted the bigger problem that’s limiting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attack – United’s midfield!
Man Utd had scored more than one goal just twice in 14 games this season in all competitions prior to Wednesday 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge in the Carabao Cup. For a club like United that kind of record is not good enough.
Why is this happening? If you look at the quality of chances they are creating it shows you they struggle to break teams down.
They’ve taken 138 shots on goal this season and 65 of them have been from outside the box. That’s 45% of their shots on goal coming from distance. They haven’t the quality to break teams down and create better goal-scoring chances inside the penalty area.
So their problems lie not only with the strikers, Roy, but the players behind them.
Just look at their midfield this season. Between Pereira, Pogba, Mata, Fred, McTominay and Lingard they have assisted on just four goals and created six big chances all season. In the same period, Kevin De Bruyne has nine assists and ten big chances created. This shows you the scraps Rashford and Martial are living off.
The myth that is Paul Pogba is still their best player and has the quality to break down defences, but doesn’t have the mentality to fight when they really need him, and he’s out until December anyway.
They still need a massive overhaul despite their summer signings. In previous years United spent a lot of money bringing in proven players on massive wages, but Maguire and Wan-Bissaka are relatively young and have improved United’s defence immediately. They’ve conceded just two more goals than Liverpool in the league but if you look at expected goals against they are the best in the league. This shows you that they are not giving up many high-quality chances this season, which is a big change from previous campaigns.
So why back unders in this?
United have the best xG Against in the league, but they are finding it difficult to create high-quality chances. Eddie Howe is one of the most attacking managers in the league but the Cherries are really struggling for goals lately, only scoring once in their last three games while conceding just once, away to Arsenal, in that span.
Also, similar to United, they have a high shot rate from outside the box (42%) which shows they are struggling to work chances closer to the goal.
It’s worth noting as well that United are really struggling for goals away from home, only scoring five in five games. In those games the under 2.5 goals has landed four times. The only time it didn’t was last week when United put three past Norwich, who have the worst defence in the league.