‘The United Way’ is a term United fans are all too willing to use to describe how their side should play, it’s suppose to be swashbuckling, fast paced, attacking football. This season has seen United appear to play a more expansive game compared to LVG’s two years at the club; however, after their 8th draw at home in the league this season, you do have to ask is it really working?
As a fan you would say yes, United are creating chances, less passes are going sideways, the tempo of play appears to be much quicker and United are using the full width of the pitch again. Unfortunately, this change has not resulted in United being any higher up the table than they were last year. Although there has not been the frustrations like in the last couple of years, the amount of home draws is starting to take it’s toll on United’s chances of finishing in the top 4, which has to be a slight concern to all involved. So why are United drawing so many home games?
On Saturday, against West Brom, United set out with what can only be described as a 4-2-3-1 formation. However, for large parts of the games you could have described it as a 2-4-4 formation, with West Brom sat so deep, that at points, all 10 outfield United players were in the West Brom half. However, United with 75% of the ball and 18 attempts on goal only tested Ben Foster 3 times with shots on target; the story of the season, United huff and puff, yet cannot score. Some will say that the game would have been different if Zlatan wasn’t suspended, and they could be right, but Zlatan has played in 6 of the previous home draws, having only missed the Arsenal game, before the West Brom game, and hasn’t won us those games, so why would have this been different?
Are goalkeepers coming to Old Trafford and putting in super human efforts to keep United at bay in comparison to when they play against other clubs? I can’t believe this to be the case, I don’t think any goalkeeper wants to concede in any game they play in. Tom Heaton, when Burnley got a draw at Old Trafford, was in sensational form, but you could argue that he’s been in that form all season. After all, Heaton has made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the league, it just so happened that he made 11 of his 115 at Old Trafford. Foster is second in the list of saves made this season and Grant, Boruc and Cech, are all in the top 10 for saves made, and all managed to either keep a clean sheet, or only concede once at Old Traford this season.
Are United wasteful then? Perhaps, United, according to the Premier League website, have missed 40 big chances this season, thats 5 more than City who sit second in that table and 12 more than third place Arsenal. Zlatan for example has had 43 shots on target this season and has scored 15 goals, this means it takes Zlatan 3 shots to score a goal. When you compare this to Lukaku, who scores with every other shot and Kane who has scored 19 times from 36 shots on target. It does question how many chances do do United need to create to score and how reliant are United on Zlatan to get the goals.
United have had 481 shots so far this season, thats 19 less than Tottenham, 15 less then Liverpool, 40 more than City and 56 more than Chelsea. However, out of the 5 sides who make up the top 5 currently, United have scored the least number of goals with Everton and Arsenal, who sit below United in the table, scoring more so far this season. So far the other ‘strikers’ at Old Trafford have scored a total of 8 league goals between them, with Martial & Rashford scoring 3 each and Rooney scoring 2. I know that these players have not played as much as Zlatan, and when they have played, they’ve been played in different positions, but you need the whole team scoring if you want to do well in this league, rather than relying on just one striker. United only have one player in the top 30 goal scorers in the league so far this season, though they have had 13 different league goal scorers, which is more than Chelsea! The problem is, those who score for Chelsea, score more frequently than those at Old Trafford.
At least we’re solid at the back! Yeah, that is the one consolation from these games, we haven’t lost them. We’re unbeaten now in 19 league games, which is impressive. However, too many single points over the course of the season has left United looking up at the Champions League places, rather than fighting for the places at the very top of the table. I don’t think anyone doubted that Jose would make United stronger at the back; he has a history of ensuring his sides are solid and don’t concede many goals. That said, this characteristic has historically seen him being accused of parking the bus, which is a tactic that he’s actually only deployed once so far in his Old Trafford career, against Liverpool at Anfield. Only Tottenham have conceded less goals than United so far this season, and we have only been beaten 3 times, which is the same as second place Tottenham and one fewer than Chelsea.
So maybe Jose has not quite got United playing ‘The United Way’ completely, but we have a solid foundation, have began to play with pace, and are creating chances. We just need to make sure we take our chances in our final 10 games if want to finish in the top 4.