Nil and Niller: Europa League is the Only Remaining Basket for Man United

Nil and Niller: Europa League is the Only Remaining Basket for Man United

Manchester United made absolute arses of themselves yet again. Another two points dropped at Old Trafford, another opportunity to capitalise on a favourable game-week squandered, another game where the home side almost managed to score and another game where the opposition goalkeeper played a blinder.

The Red Devils have drawn their eleventh league game this campaign, a whopping eighth at the Theatre of Dreams which has reached a stage where calling it the Theatre of Draws wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. Mourinho’s side have drawn more games than they have won at Old Trafford this season, who would have foreseen that after a sizeable transfer spend in the summer only trumped by Manchester City?

If there’s anything more pointless about Manchester United than Luke Shaw’s existence it is probably their 19-game unbeaten run in the Premier League. With a measly 40% win rate at home, less than their overall win percentage which stands at an unimpressive 50% (14 wins/28), despite having one of the best squads in the country, United are in a bit of a trouble now, particularly if they fail to win the Europa League – which is now undeniably the handle-less basket they should be cramming every single egg into.

It is hard to put their lack of finishing in games they created enough chances to win almost throughout the season down to one reason; it’s always been a combination of problems. Chance creation has not been an issue under Mourinho – at least as much as it was under Louis van Gaal. Come to think of it, the Red Devils have created the third highest number of ‘big chances’ from open play – only behind Liverpool and Man City – but 20th for scoring them.

United have plenty of goal-mouth action every single game in the league – especially at home, despite what the soulless nature of a majority of those 8 home draws would have you believe. They have attempted 19 shots on average at Old Trafford (only behind Spurs) – out of which, 10.5 shots have come from inside the penalty area, only behind Arsenal.

But the gulf in terms of actual goals scored (joint seventh in the league for goals scored) does make a mockery of every little detail mentioned above.

It’s a gap that can only be explained by the dearth of genuine goalscorers at United as opposed to the teams above them. Liverpool scored three against Everton without arguably their best player in Adam Lallana. Spurs were able to score two against a tough Burnley side even without their talismanic top scorer in Harry Kane. In contrast, United have struggled to score in two of the three games that Ibrahimovic has missed (Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion) due to suspension.

Barring the Swede who has carried United on his shoulders at 35, there are too many pretenders at United who as Mourinho rightly described post-match – could produce ‘flashy moments’ in games but not matured enough to translate them into goals that actually make the difference in games. Against West Bromwich Albion, there were two gilt-edged chances that fell in the way of Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan – two of the most lethal players that United could rely upon in the absence of their top three goalscorers in all competitions.

As Anthony Martial headed his opportunity narrowly wide, the Armenian 27-year old, who was on the scoresheet for his country in the International break, failed to beat Ben Foster in a one-on-one situation which ultimately cost two points which could have sustained the pressure on their nearest rivals.

But with only 10 games to go now in the Premier League, there is little evidence to suggest that their home form will improve, what with the recent injuries to Phil Jones and Chris Smalling and more importantly Juan Mata – who is also likely to be sidelined for the rest of the season.

If the prospect of missing their second most reliable goalscorer for the remainder of the season was a major blow, then it was certainly not softened by the 0-0 on Saturday.