Well, well, well. Where to start with Manchester United? The club currently sit in sixth place. A point behind Crystal Palace, with teams like Watford, West Ham and Liverpool breathing down our necks. This isn’t where we wanted, or expected, to be at the end of 2015.
The last six league games have brought just three Manchester United goals. That is simply not good enough. And while we could sit here and over-analyse everything that has gone wrong, I just simply do not have that high of a word count. For me the biggest problem right now that needs addressing is the lack of any cutting edge.
Now, ‘cutting edge’ might sound like one of those footballing clichés that Dave from down the pub throws at you to sound intelligent in a football debate, and it kind of is. But football is a simple game, so let’s keep it simple. Who is going to score goals for Louis van Gaal’s side? Our talisman, our leader, our club captain is Wayne Rooney. Did you just sigh? So did I. Rooney has scored just six Premier League goals in the whole of 2015. That puts him level with Charlie Austin, whose QPR side were relegated in May and have not played Premier League football for four months.
So, who else can score for us? Anthony Martial? When he burst onto the scene against Liverpool, and scored impressively on his debut, we were all very giddy. However, since then the young Frenchman has scored just three times in the league. Perhaps it isn’t his fault. Since his debut Martial has been increasingly used out wide to accommodate Rooney through the middle. The joy and unpredictability he displayed early on in his United career appears to have been coached out of him. It culminated recently when Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma bullied him out of that particular 0-0 draw. He may well prove to be our ‘cutting edge’, but at the minute it just isn’t happening for him.
Manchester United’s style of play also makes it all the more painful to not have a cutting edge. Now please bear with me on this one, but there are similarities between United and Barcelona. Stop laughing. Both sides often dominate their opponents in terms of possession. They both keep the ball. They both always look for one more pass. Difference is, when the Catalan outfit are finished with their sideways passes and endless stream of one-twos, they make it into the final third. And who is there for them? Lionel Messi. Luis Suarez. Neymar. Who is there for United when, and if, they make it into the final third? Rooney. Fellaini. Martial. If we’re lucky. When United do finally make it forward they just don’t look threatening anymore. It is hard to see where the goals will come from.
What else makes United’s struggles to find the net worse, is that our opponents all have their cutting edges. And they’re flourishing. Teams like Manchester City have theirs, when Sergio Aguero is fit. Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud is beginning to look the real deal. Tottenham’s Harry Kane has had one hell of a 2015. Leicester City arguably have the sharpest of cutting edges this season with the impressive Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez firing on all cylinders. What do all these teams have in common? They all look like scoring. And they’re all above Manchester United in the league.
So, the festive period has not been so merry for Van Gaal and his United side. A couple of goals would likely wake everybody up and revitalise things. But it is almost impossible to see where those goals are going to come from. January will be a big month for the Dutch manager. He has to invest in a goalscorer. A goalscorer who will consistently score goals. I hear Bayer Leverkusen have a Mexican lad who’s doing alright.