Surprise, surprise – United draw yet another blank.
This weekend, the Red Devils’ opponents were West Ham United, and after 90 minutes the all too familiar score of 0-0 was the one that emerged.
This is United’s fifth goalless draw in nine games, and leaves them in fourth, three points shy of league leaders Leicester City.
Whilst this is by no means a disaster, the reality is that had United turned just two of those scoreless games into three points, they would be sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League. Questions are now legitimately being asked about United’s firepower.
Most pundits agree that Louis van Gaal’s side has an issue as far as strikers are concerned. Wayne Rooney has only scored twice in the league this year, with new boy Memphis Depay bagging the same amount. Teenager Anthony Martial has one more than Rooney and Depay, but given that we are now 15 games into the season, one would hope that these three forwards could muster more goals than seven between them.
Van Gaal clearly agrees, and in the aftermath of the West Ham game, the Dutchman mused whether United would be scoring more goals if they had Sergio Aguero or Luis Suarez spearheading the attack.
His intimation was clear – he believes that they would, and most football fans would agree with this statement. But the fact of the matter is that it is Van Gaal’s job to coax a player like Aguero or Suarez to come and play at Old Trafford, and consequently, it is rather embarrassing of him to use the lack of such a player as an excuse.
Van Gaal’s goal-scoring problems are clearly of his own making. He bade farewell to both Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez in the summer, and whilst both players didn’t enjoy stellar seasons last year, the reality is that both are proven to be able to hit the back of the net on a consistent basis.
Yet the manager allowed them both to leave, and rather than bringing in a top quality striker, he plumped for the unproven Depay and the unknown Martial; spending a significant amount of money in the process.
Van Gaal may be looking to pass the buck onto his players, but the answer to his striking woes is far closer to home.
With a ‘war chest’ available in the summer, the Dutchman theoretically could have gone after whoever he wanted, and yet he ended up with Martial and Depay. In my mind there are only two potential reasons for this.
One, van Gaal genuinely believed that these were the best players to perform his game-plan.
Two, he simply wasn’t able to convince the higher calibre players of the wisdom of a move to Old Trafford.
Either way, the manager is culpable, and if United’s fortunes do not improve, the hierarchy at the club will not be fooled by van Gaal’s attempts to deflect the blame. Should the club fail to qualify for the Champions League AND fail to progress beyond the group stages in this year’s competition, he will almost certainly pay with his job.
And on the basis of his roster decisions in recent times, it would be a difficult decision for him to argue with.