Of the 11 penalties won in the Premier League this season, Manchester United have won four of them. They’ve missed two and had they not done so, they could now be ahead of Manchester City in second place.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reminded reporters after United’s draw against Leicester that there could have been even more, and explained why he thought that was the case.
“I think it’s the type of players we’ve got,” he said. United’s front line for this season is starkly different to last season’s. Romelu Lukaku is the opposite type of striker to Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial, two wingers-cum-strikers who cut inside and draw the tackle from the defender.
Pace and directness
The addition of Dan James is an even bigger factor, though it’s not the Welshman who’s won the most penalties so far this season. But the constant threat of Rashford, James and Martial wears down defences and penalties are given away. With Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong to come off the bench as well, it’s likely the trend will continue for United.
Against Leicester, James and Rashford made a combined total of nine dribbles. Add in Martial against Crystal Palace and it was 11 and the three of them attempted 13 against Chelsea. Such is the fluidity of the front three that they interchange positions regularly, another factor drawing fouls out of tired defenders.
“Quick feet and good skills,” Solskjaer said of his forwards. “And you know, most of them haven’t been debatable. With VAR, you’ll get them more than you don’t.”
“Every striker misses a penalty. I’ve seen Maradona and Messi and Platini and Zico miss. You’ve just got to be confident enough to step up next time.”
United could be second with penalties scored
Given it’s Rashford and Paul Pogba winning penalties most frequently, they both absolutely have a right to take them. Equally, they’re both players with great confidence in their own abilities and they can perform under pressure.
Rashford has netted two this season and missed one, while Pogba also missed against Wolves. Both are assigned penalty takers according to Solskjaer but the importance of them scoring is enormous. Had they done so against Wolves and Palace, United would be in second on 11 points rather than eight.
United should score more from open play and must work on that, but a high ratio of penalties earned is nothing to be scoffed at. It shows the quality of the individual players in United’s attack. Long may that continue.
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