Manchester United have now gone eight hours and 47 minutes without scoring a goal from open play following another miserable defeat at home to Manchester City.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men never looked like scoring against the champions, registering just one shot on target – the same total managed against Everton on Sunday.
Both games against Barcelona were the same story: some promising moments, a couple of openings, but never the bottle needed to finish – especially from Marcus Rashford, whose continued selection at No.9, at the expense of trying something else, constitutes one of the only valid criticisms one can level at Solskjaer.
The last player to score from open play for Man United was, of course, Sir Lord Scott McTominay, McSauce, Saucy Boy, who smashed a shot home against Wolverhampton Wanderers after 13 minutes. United lost that game, too.
— utdreport (@utdreport) April 24, 2019
What has happened to United’s attackers, a group who – from Rashford to Romelu Lukaku to Anthony Martial (not Sanchez though) – flew at teams with vigour and precision at the start of Solskjaer’s reign?
The answer comes in two parts. Firstly, and most prominently, nobody from United’s attack is 100 percent fit. Rashford has been injured and unfit since February. Lingard and Martial have both lost rhythm due to injuries. Sanchez has been injured for most of the season. Combine those niggling injuries with a general lack of fitness (to which Solskjaer has alluded and is becoming growingly apparent with each passing game), and you have an attack operating at what looks like 60 per cent, against defences playing with almost 100 per cent application. It is a recipe for inertia, and a recipe for seven defeats in nine.
The second answer is more basic: Solskjaer doesn’t have a particular way of playing yet. The Norwegian admitted as much last month. As a consequence, that momentum in attack which characterised the early months, with United playing a standard counter-attacking 4-3-3 with Rashford and Lingard and Martial, has disappeared amid injury crises and a natural habit of Solskjaer to tinker.
United supporters are understandably angry at their players. But they would be wise to wait until the summer. What matters, really, is the business the club does in the summer, and what Solskjaer can get out of this current attack with a proper pre-season after some much-needed time off.