Manchester United have failed to look threatening in the final third this season and that trend continued in a disappointing draw against Newcastle on Saturday. The lack of quality in attack meant that Manchester United failed to score against a defence which had only kept two clean sheets in 2015 prior to the match at Old Trafford. This is a huge concern for Louis van Gaal, especially as the supporters are expecting the club to be challenging at the top of the Premier League.
Last season, Ander Herrera played a key role in the club’s resurgence in the second half of the season. He was initially out of favour, but he became a regular towards the end of the campaign and he showed his worth to the team with some excellent performances. However, this season he has returned to being a bit-part player and it isn’t clear why that is. The Spaniard is one of the best creative players in the division on his day and his dynamic style of play makes him difficult to deal with. On occasions last season, he was unplayable when combining with Juan Mata.
Manchester United have opted to use Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay as their attacking midfield trio, which puts too much pressure on Mata, as the other two are more centred on scoring goals. The former Chelsea player has been one of the best Premier League players over the last few years, but he doesn’t have the ability to carry the creative burden alone. Januzaj and Depay are both huge talents, but they are still young and their naivety shows at times in the Premier League.
The decision to play with two defensive minded midfielders on Saturday with Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger both starting was questionable. Manchester United shouldn’t be that negative at home, especially against a side with the defensive record of Newcastle. The negative tactics that Van Gaal is becoming known for are beginning to frustrate the Old Trafford faithful and it’s easy to see why. Opposition teams will come to Manchester knowing that they can get something from the game as the home side aren’t going to attack from the first minute as they did under Sir Alex Ferguson.
I think that Ander Herrera is the answer to the offensive problems at the club. Last season, the midfielder managed to score six goals and get a further four assists in 26 league apperances. He created a chance every 72.1 minutes, while he also made 22 key passes and his ball retention was very impressive. He could be used in central midfield to partner either Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger or Michael Carrick. This would give Manchester United another forward thinking player on the pitch, while it would also see Juan Mata continue in his role behind the striker. This is crucial as last season, the club played their best football when both Spaniards were on the pitch. Their combination play at times was brilliant.
There has been a lot of talk about the downturn in the form of Wayne Rooney and the need for the club to sign a new striker before the window closes. Although their striker options are few and far between, there is a lot of talent in this Manchester United squad and Van Gaal should be able to solve their attacking woes with the players available to him. Rooney will always be clinical in front of goal if he is given the chances. The problem for the team has been creative clear cut chances and that is why I believe that Herrera should be brought back into the starting eleven.