Draw with Burnley shows why Manchester United are suffering from losing out on Ivan Perisic

by Leo Nieboer

Manchester United produced 51 crosses during their 2-2 draw with Burnley on Boxing Day and only one came off.

Ashley Young‘s low ball for Jesse Lingard, who flicked home to halve the deficit, was the shining jewell in a catalogue of meagre, listless balls into the box that Burnley’s defensive rearguard dealt with comfortably.

The likes of Juan Mata, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford and even Young just didn’t produce the quality needed to find Romelu Lukaku or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and it was painful to watch.

And it was, above anything, a painful indictment of the club’s board and their inability to satisfy Jose Mourinho‘s demand to sign a traditional, cut-and-thrust winger – capable of reaching the byline and inflicting damage – over the summer.

Man United are second only to Tottenham Hotspur when it comes to the number of crosses produced this season – 437 in total – and not one of them was delivered by an actual winger in an actual winger position.

Anthony Martial and Rashford are strikers by trade; Juan Mata is a No.10; Young and Antonio Valencia have now been converted to full-backs; Shaw is a full-back and still clearly finding his range.

For a team that bases its attacking approach primarily in delivering balls to Lukaku, there aren’t any players who you could describe as having the innate, established qualities of a winger – someone like Gareth Bale or Ryan Giggs, who both actively relished the role of bombing down the flank.

Needless to say, Ivan Perisic – hotly pursued by the club but ultimately persuaded to sign a new deal with Inter Milan – would have provided exactly that. United’s board failed, and the impact of this deficiency has become manifold over the last week.

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