How do Manchester United improve and score more?
Manchester United are the talk of the town. Not just in the North-West, but in the whole football world. The Red Devils have been the footballing media's favoured subject. Be it the transfers, the matchups, the players and the elephant in the room himself, Jose Mourinho. The latest rumour suggests that the Special One and Paul Pogba have lashed out at each other.
Whether that is true or not, is up for debate. What's not for discussion, however, is Manchester United's lack of goals, as aptly pointed out by fellow writer, Martin Palazzotto. The point made is that United don't score enough, while also not being solid at the back. The stats back those up. In this article, I want to discuss how the Mancunians can improve upon those goal-scoring shortcomings.
Let's begin with Mourinho's tactics...
The style employed by the current United manager are considered to be anti-football and outdated. But, is it entirely true? I think not. United beat every team in the division last season, including champions Manchester City, in their own backyard. The same team and manager were unbeaten against the heavy metal Liverpool. Sure, Mourinho's game plan in some cases was way off, but in others, it was spot on too...
However, the build-up play last season was far too static. It was reminiscent of the Louis van Gaal days. The passing was sideways and United simply couldn't penetrate a defence which was deep and compact. There was no width and no movement. At times, the disappointment was glaringly evident.
Alexis Sanchez and Paul Pogba both wanted to get on the ball. Neither made runs in behind the opposition defence. Pogba did, in the derby and scored two. New signing Fred, along with Andreas Periera are there to ping those balls in. One of them has to leave the creative burden and start running. Things haven't clicked for Alexis Sanchez either, but the pre-season has reassured the Old Trafford faithful.
The full-backs didn't push up high enough. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia just aren't adept offensively. Hopefully, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot kick things up a notch and inject pace and directness in those wide areas. A change of formation could prove to be the key.
United didn't park the bus in the 56 games they played last season. That happened a couple of times, but each got the result that the manager wanted. And once again, let us not forget who Mourinho is. The Special One is among the most successful managers in the sport. He can beat anyone on any given day. The Portuguese's mantra is not extinct.
And even if he were outdated, he has got two new coaches to freshen things up. First up is club legend Michael Carrick, whose coaching has already done wonders for the likes of Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku among others. The Geordie often holds video sessions after analysing the players' performance, offering a fresh dimension to the beautiful game.
Pogba has all the talent in the world, but he needs to start performing consistently. It seems like the Frenchman chooses the games to perform in. He is the embodiment of Manchester United, with the swagger and the confidence, he just needs to go out there and show it weekly. Not even the centurions could stop him when in full flight.
Lukaku must be ruthless, too. Just look at the game against Leicester City. He should've scored that one-on-one to get his season up and running. Now, that miss will be on the back of his mind. Hopefully, he puts it behind him and starts delivering the goods sooner rather than later. Manchester United, like a certain club in North London, simply cannot afford their striker catching up the August fever. Lukaku's all-round game is up there with the very best, but he needs to improve in front of goal. It is the only area in which Harry Kane betters him.
Coming back to the coaching staff, Kieran McKenna has been promoted to the first team from the U18's, albeit, not as the manager. His U18's team scored an average of three goals per game last season. He will supervise the first teams' training sessions. Stefano Rapetti, Mourinho's assistant at Inter Milan, has also joined the setup at Old Trafford.
This is reminiscent of the great, Sir Alex Ferguson, who used to change his coaching staff every once in a while to keep things newfangled. Mourinho is at a similar stage to where Sir Alex was in 2006. He had a young squad, which he transformed to European champions in two years. There is no doubt that Mourinho cannot follow suit. The important thing for him is to adapt. He no longer has the warriors like he had at Chelsea and Inter Milan who would die for him. But, he still has world class players at his disposal. He just needs to get them clicking.
The players have to take responsibility too. They can't hide behind the manager all the time. Wayne Rooney said on an episode of MNF that Sir Alex's tactics were really simple. The Scot would tell his players that those 11 players were better than the opponents' 11. Just go out there and prove why you're better.
United's next game is against Brighton at the Amex Stadium. Just a few months before, Mourinho's men were outplayed by the Seagulls in the corresponding fixture last season. It exposed Manchester United's problems. Some still exist. It is time for the manager and the squad to put those behind and focus on mounting a title challenge, at least.