Manchester United’s problem in breaking teams down shone brightly in the 0-0 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers last night. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s men failed to manage a single shot on target in the 90 minutes. It is the first time that United have failed to have a shot on target in a game since December 2015.
Manchester United’s Creativity Issues Clear in Bland Cup Draw
No sign of Attacking Intent
Yet again, United’s main issues were made from them not having the intent to play forward balls into the front three. In a much-changed outfit, Mason Greenwood started alongside Tahith Chong and Daniel James on the front-line. Continually, Greenwood dropped far too deep for the ball due to the lack of service from the midfield. This meant that when the wide men did receive the ball, there was little to aim for. We have seen the potential that the 18-year-old has when he plays in the box, but it was hard not to feel sympathy for him as he fed off scraps.
In the midfield, the play was far too pragmatic. Nemanja Matic and Andreas Pereira came under heavy scrutiny when both had chances to play the ball forwards, only to play it safely back to their centre-backs. The midfield duo looked nervy throughout the game. Perhaps confidence is lacking, but it would be nice to see some more ambitious passing through the lines.
Juan Mata is a wonderfully gifted footballer, but unfortunately, the game ran him by at times. He struggled with the pace and failed to create key chances. Despite this, he had United’s best chance when he fooled John Ruddy with a clever free-kick from 25 yards.
A damning indictment on United’s attacking display was that their best-attacking threat came through their left-back. Brandon Williams came into the fray and impressed, making surging runs into good areas. Always looking to get the ball into the box, Williams was unlucky not to win a penalty in the first-half when Leandro Dendoncker brought him down. Despite getting forward at every opportunity, Williams also did well defensively, keeping Adama Traore relatively quiet. The 19-year-old did well considering Traore and Doherty doubled-up on him at times.
Manchester United’s Diagnosis for the January Window
Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer is crying out for an attacking midfielder. Jesse Lingard‘s last 12 months have been woeful, though this is mitigated through personal issues through this time. Juan Mata’s technical prowess does not cover up his lack of physicality in the modern game. With Paul Pogba‘s intentions unclear, it is essential that United acquire a creator, otherwise, they risk missing out on the top four.
On Sunday morning, The Daily Mirror reported that the Old Trafford hierarchy has lodged a bid of £45million plus Jesse Lingard for Leicester’s James Maddison. United are exhibiting their intent to strengthen this month, though Leicester will likely turn it down. Maddison has created more chances (146) than any other player in the Premier League since the start of last season. He would be a welcome addition to Old Trafford, adding creativity and goals to a midfield devoid of any ideas.
Grealish is averaging 2.2 shots, 2.7 Key Passes, and 2.1 dribbles per 90 minutes this season, more than any other United midfielder. The importance of this is that Grealish is driving the midfield forward. Not only creating chances, but he is making his own, which currently does not happen in Manchester United’s laboured midfield. Grealish’s ability to play out wide adds versatility and gives Ed Woodward another reason to sign the Englishman.
A Fatigue Issue
Last nights draw means that a replay beckons. With the two-legged tie in the Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City coming up, United will play nine games this month. Twinned with nine games last month, fatigue could be an issue in the squad.
The injury list at Old Trafford is worrying. Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly are out. Harry Maguire is also a doubt for the Manchester City first leg and Serge Romero struggled with a problem on the pitch last night.
The fixture congestion leaves Solsjkaer with a selection headache with the squad looking thin. The return of Diogo Dalot and Eric Bailly will be welcome in coming weeks where rotation is going to be heavy.
Additions to the squad are key to Manchester United’s side in terms of quality and providing the team with better chances of making the top four. Not only this, but they are essential to add extra numbers to a depleted squad.