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.
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.
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.