Manchester United need to urgently address their striker issues before the embarrassing start to the campaign spirals out of control, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to add a flat track bully to his forward options in January.
It was a bold decision from the Norwegian to allow the experienced pair Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to both leave with no replacements signed, there is no denying the talent Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood possess, but are they natural number nines?
Out of the so-called big six, it is the Red Devils who have the lowest percentage for big chances scored this season with 28.6%. To be fair to United’s forwards not all those chances have fallen to them, but due to the lack of chances currently being created, if United don’t put these opportunities away, the reality is we don’t know if another will arise.
Our shot conversion rate in the Premier League this season is 8.2%, the fifth worst in the top flight. United simply don’t have a striker that wants to score goals like their life depended on it.
Our rivals Manchester City have Aguero and Sterling, Tottenham have Kane, Arsenal have Aubameyang, Chelsea have Abraham, Liverpool have their deadly front three and Leicester have Vardy, they are all forwards that love scoring goals. Between them they have 46 Premier League goals already this season.
Time and time again against sides their respected clubs are expected to beat the names above prove to be the matchwinners, United on the other hand are lacking inspiration and are missing that striker who can score a chance out of nothing, hence already the amount of dropped points lost against lower table clubs who set up in a compact shape.
Martial had scored two in two games before picking up an injury against Crystal Palace, the Frenchman hasn’t featured since. Rashford has one open play goal this season and that came against Chelsea in the opening weekend, Greenwood has been used sparingly in the league, often when United are chasing a goal.
United’s strikers are capable of scoring the world-class goals, which makes pundits praise their burgeoning talents, but they need to learn that knack that a scrappy goal is just as valuable.
What did Lukaku bring?
Despite falling down the pecking order when Solskjaer took over on a temporary basis, Lukaku still managed to score crucial goals. The Belgian ended last season with 15 goals and four assists in 45 matches in all competitions.
In a game where Rashford had no shots on goal against Newcastle, it was Lukaku who came off the bench to open the scoring with his first touch in the same fixture last season, it was the ultimate poacher finish after Dubravka spilled a Rashford free-kick.
The Inter Milan striker may not have been the striker Solskjaer wanted long-term, he may have been wasteful in front of goal, but he did manage to score 28 Premier League goals in 66 appearances, during his time in Manchester. He found a way to get himself into goalscoring positions.
However, Lukaku didn’t fit the energetic and versatile front line Solskjaer is trying to create, but the Norwegian’s current forwards are living off scraps and lacking that complete forward IQ, and finding a way to be in the right place at the right time.
United’s strikers need to be smarter
On too many occasions when playing centrally, Rashford drifts into the wide areas or comes deep trying to get on the ball, this usually leaves United with no one in the oppositions penalty box.
Dan James has been one of the few bright sparks this season, and he often gives the opposition full-backs nightmares with his pacey mazy runs, but when it comes to him getting to the by-line and delivering a cross, Rashford always seems to be caught flat footed and not anticipating where the Welsh winger is looking to cross the ball.
For his national side against Slovakia, James tied the right-back in knots before delivering an inch-perfect hanging cross for Kieffer Moore, who headed it back across goal past Newcastle keeper Dubravka. It’s a goal that Manchester United simply don’t look like scoring right now, but James isn’t doing anything differently for his country, he is well within his rights to question the movement of his club teammates.
One man who would of loved to have played alongside James, is Javier Hernandez, the little pea may lack a physical presence, but he was the ultimate poacher during his time playing under Fergie. United’s forwards could learn a great deal from watching the Mexican’s movement and sheer thirst for goals. He came alive in the penalty area, something United desperately need.
United could have a lot of crucial players returning from injury ahead of the Liverpool clash, but the Red Devils are realising that the toughest job in football is finding someone who can make putting the ball in the back look easy.
If United’s goalscoring return doesn’t dramatically improve where does Solskjaer turn, Mario Mandzukic may add physicality and experience, but there is no guarantee the Croat will be a prolific addition, could it be time for either Braut Erling Haaland or Callum Wilson, who are the complete forwards United crave to be pursued in January.
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