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Off the mark and lack of cutting edge: Manchester United's goalscoring issue

Off the mark and lack of cutting edge: Manchester United's goalscoring issue
Image Credits: Getty Images

Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw against Newcastle United on Sunday, in a lacklustre game at Old Trafford that was filled with strange VAR decisions and horrible finishing.

Erik ten Hag's side were particularly off the mark in front of goal on the day, and have been for a large part of this season. United had 15 shots, but only two on target, while Newcastle amassed the same amount on target with nine shots, and arguably should have taken the lead early on after Joelinton hit the woodwork twice in one instance.

Following this, United are the side with the second-least amount of goals scored in the top half of the Premier League with just 13 goals in nine games, with the only team faring worse being 10th-placed Bournemouth with 10 goals in 10 games. Yes they have a game in hand, but so do the likes of Liverpool for example, who have been underwhelming, but have still scored 21 goals in the same amount of games as United.

United's defensive improvement is clear for all to see, but the fragility up front is costing them dearly.

Cristiano Ronaldo isn't hitting the same heights as last season, with question marks being raised over him fitting into the new system at the club, while Anthony Martial cannot stay fit, and the likes of Marcus Rashford, Antony, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes are all proving to be inconsistent in front of goal. Fernandes has been especially wasteful, getting just one goal so far this season, when he has realistically played more like a second striker than as a midfielder, and played the most minutes out of all of United's forward players.

Ronaldo has scored just one goal in the league this season, resulting in a horrible conversion rate of just 7.14 per cent, while the likes of Rashford has scored three, totalling a conversion rate of 27.27 per cent. Martial, who has barely played, has converted the two shots he's taken, with both goals coming in the Manchester Derby (stats via Squawka).

Fred missed a sitter against Newcastle, and while he should have scored, other chances should have also been buried from more natural goalscorers, especially the one from Rashford right at the very end of the game.

The issues aren't only occurring in the Premier League though, as United have also been wasteful in the UEFA Europa League, barely scraping through wins against Omonia Nicosia, and failing to score in a dull home game against Real Sociedad. United dominated against FC Sheriff, but they still depended on a very early strike from Sancho and a penalty from Ronaldo, and following that, they barely created anything else.

The whole team needs to perform better in front of goal, but it also raises questions surrounding the recruitment. It was clear that ten Hag wanted a new striker in the summer, especially with there being doubts over Ronaldo's future, and Martial's injury issues, yet investment was shifted towards other positions.

However, it will be difficult to snatch a forward from another club in January, so it looks like United will simply have to find a way to be more clinical. Given the way things are going, ten Hag's best bet is to manage Martial's fitness as well as possible, as he seems like a forward more suited to his intended style than Ronaldo. With some huge games coming up however, he needs to find a solution very quickly, especially since Spurs and Chelsea, United's next two opponents, have conceded just 10 goals each this season, having the second-best defensive record, only being outperformed by none other than Newcastle.


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