Manchester United’s progress was slowed on Sunday by a 1-1 home draw against Everton.
There was a feeling a corner had been turned the week before but it’s clear there’s plenty of work for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to do to get this side into the top four by May.
United have to tighten up defensively if they are to get to where Solskjaer wants them to go and one statistic underlines it.
Worst run since 1971
Victor Lindelof’s own goal against the Toffees means it is now 12 league matches without a clean sheet for United. That shambolic record is their worst since 1971.
That is less than ideal for a club who spent £130 million on two defenders during the summer in Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
In that era, United had the likes of George Best and Brian Kidd to outscore teams at the other end, but this side struggles badly in front of goal.
It’s well known now that Solskjaer’s side struggle to score goals and break down deep defences, so leaving themselves needing at least two to win every game is a recipe for disaster.
A leaky defence will undermine everything Solskjaer tries to achieve. Even his preferred counter-attacking approach relies on being tight at the back.
Europa League contrast
By contrast to their league record, United have five clean sheets from six Europa League games during a campaign in which they have qualified top of the group.
The only goals conceded came when Solskjaer made a host of changes for the trip to Astana and a young United side lost 2-1.
That said, the standard of opponent in that tournament is often lower than what United have faced in domestic action.
United will hope there’s a European formula that can work in the Premier League, because a domestic clean sheet is long overdue ahead of the weekend trip to basement boys Watford.
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