Tactic Talk – Gritty Man Utd lacking firepower

Manchester United came away from Old Trafford with a frustrating point following a controversial 1-1 draw against Newcastle United at the weekend. Rio Ferdinand was harshly judged to have fouled Hatem Ben Arfa, with referee Mike Jones originally awarding a corner kick after the challenge, only to take his assistant John Flynn’s advice and award a penalty, which was duly despatched by Demba Ba to rescue a point for the visitors. While the decisions of the officials were a deciding factor in the result, United’s second draw in a week will be disappointing to a side struggling to convert chances.

Despite being the second-highest scorers in the Premier League, behind league leaders Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have struggled for goals when needed in recent weeks. While United continue to find the net in matches, two score draws to follow two 1-0 wins would suggest The Red Devils are lacking the clinical edge of recent years.

After a summer of speculation regarding United’s apparent need for a creative midfielder, many felt Sir Alex’s men would struggle to create chances. Despite a string of injuries, plus the retirement of Paul Scholes, the addition of the likes of Ashley Young in attack saw United win the Community Shield, plus begin their league campaign in blistering fashion, including an 8-2 win over Arsenal. However, in recent weeks, such emphatic goalscoring performances have been less frequent, as United’s lack of midfield options began to surface, with Wayne Rooney deployed in an unfamiliar midfield role in recent weeks. While Rooney’s performances in his new position have been praised by his manager, the champions have consequently seen a key member of their frontline, at times relocated, a problem compounded further as Rooney found himself briefly on the sidelines.

Still in the hunt both domestically and in Europe, with key battles ahead both to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, as well as one of the most competitive title races in Premier League history, United will be looking to build on their creative capabilities by converting the opportunities created, against Newcastle, the hosts created a total of 28 chances, with seven on target and crucially, just a single goal. With Javier Hernandez continuing his recent form with his side’s goal, last season’s Golden Boot winner, Dimitar Berbatov finds himself a regular fixture on the United bench as United look to recover their most prolific form.

While it would be premature to suggest any form of crisis at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex’s side still requiring a result against Basel to qualify from their Champions League group, after three draws from five matches played, United will be hoping to rediscover the consistency in front of goal which brought about their emphatic start to the season, both domestically and in Europe.

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