Home » 13 days to fix Man United – Day Seven: Get the forwards firing

13 days to fix Man United – Day Seven: Get the forwards firing

by Red Billy

This series of articles started when there were 13 days until Manchester United’s next game against Brighton at Old Trafford.

13 days to make the necessary adjustments to remedy a poor start. 13 days to implement tactical changes which will improve the team’s performance. 13 days to regain and rally the spirit which was carefully cultivated last season.

13 days to fix United’s season essentially.

Over these 13 days, The Peoples Person team are looking at 13 areas United can look to improve upon before their next Premier League fixture. An article a day until Erik ten Hag’s issues have drifted away.

Today’s focus is on shooting and, specifically, getting United’s forwards firing. Last season, Benni McCarthy won a lot of plaudits as United’s top attacking coach, but he would do well to turn up at Old Trafford in disguise this season as his forward line lunges from one disaster to another.

Marcus Rashford’s goal against Arsenal was the first by any United forward in four Premier League matches. This simply is not good enough if United want to be serious contenders for a top four position.

Whatever other reasons there might be – and service, or lack thereof, is certainly one of them – the Red Devils have not converted their chances. Expected goals (XG) of 2.21 against Wolves versus one goal actually scored (not by a forward) and 2.07 against Spurs with zero goals scored showed the degree of misfiring.

United’s forwards are simply not clinical enough, with the exception perhaps of Rashford, and even he can be guilty of poor decision making for the final ball.

To the naked eye, part of the problem is that players can be too greedy. Antony, Garnacho and Rashford himself will tend to overlook a pass to a colleague in space in favour of taking on a shot.

Another issue is a lack of bodies in the box on the counter. When United do break, the player often opts to take the shot simply because not enough teammates have got into a good enough position to take the pass.

This was an issue last season and one that perhaps spurred Erik ten Hag to acquire the services of Mason Mount, who is more able than Christian Eriksen to make swift and decisive runs from deep to provide the extra man in attack.

It started off well, with the former Chelsea man getting into a great position against Wolves before missing a sitter. However, he could not build on that and subsequently got injured after two games.

The other missing piece of the puzzle is having a natural predator in the box. Ten Hag sees potential in Rasmus Hojlund to fulfil that role but it is a lot to ask of a 20 year old starting his first season in the Premier League. Coming up through the ranks at 19 is Joe Hugill, who is also that exact type of player, but whether he can make the step up – and if so, when, remains to be seen. The future looks bright, but how long can we wait?

Simply put, whatever Ten Hag decides to do to get his forwards scoring, he needs to do it fast.

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