Manchester United were held to a goalless draw by Newcastle at Old Trafford yesterday, in what was a disappointing setback for Erik ten Hag.
Several of United’s stars failed to turn up, more so their attackers who according to The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell were blunt and lacked a cutting edge to their performance.
In an analysis of the game that revealed the extent of the Red Devils’ lack of sharpness in passing and in front of goal, some of the culpable players as per Whitwell included Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, Fred and Antony.
Whitwell reports, “In truth if United do not sharpen to a lethal edge the campaign will finish in disappointment. Ronaldo had eight successful passes in the opposition half, and seven failed attempts. By comparison, Sancho had 24 completed and one astray, Antony 23 and three, Fernandes 23 and seven.”
“Overall Ronaldo’s pass success rate was 57.89 per cent. Fernandes was the next worst outfield starter at 77.78 per cent.”
“They should have got at least one goal against Newcastle. There may have been a defender on the line, but Fred had a largely unguarded net to aim at after Marcus Rashford rounded Nick Pope to square.”
On how United compare to other teams in the league, The Athletic calculate that they stand in ninth position in the league for shots on target at 42, behind struggling Leicester City and Brentford.
In terms of expected goals, Ten Hag’s side rank tenth, below West Ham and Leeds United.
Their season tally of thirteen goals so far is only enough for eleventh in the league.
Pointing out his team’s glaring deficiencies after the game, the manager took a more diplomatic approach rather than employ the realism he has become to be known for.
He indicated he was happy with what he saw, despite being disappointed with the final result.
There is plenty of work to be done as Whitwell’s analysis shows. For a team of United’s calibre it’s not good enough and looking for an extra cutting edge must comprise the next stage of the team’s development.