Manchester United may have one of the worst goalscoring records in the league but that does not mean Louis van Gaal will definitely be buying a striker this month.
Despite an encouraging performance in the 0-0 draw against Chelsea, Van Gaal is still under pressure to deliver a win when United host Swansea today.
The statistics make for uncomfortable reading for the Dutchman. United have not won in their last eight matches — their worst run for 26 years — and they have collected four points fewer than David Moyes had by this stage in his solitary season as United manager.
The club have recorded seven goalless draws this term and in the last 25 league matches have only scored 25 goals. Outside the relegation zone, only West Brom, Swansea and Stoke have scored fewer goals than United this season.
Van Gaal had backed Wayne Rooney to deliver 25 goals this season, but at the halfway point, he has found the net just twice in the league while Anthony Martial has struggled to maintain the prolific scoring rate he enjoyed shortly after moving to Old Trafford.
Van Gaal concedes United’s poor form in front of goal is a concern. “That is our problem (scoring goal s),” the United manager said.
“When you analyse most matches we were the dominating team, but we didn’t score.
“How many players have had the chances to score and why they didn’t score? You cannot always explain that.” Van Gaal has been linked with a number of forwards, including Sadio Mane, Edinson Cavani and Yoshinori Muto, but the 64-year-old was reluctant to say he would spend big on a forward in the window.
“We are looking always for solutions in the team. Also, for this moment, but we still have a good team and we can still score goals,” Van Gaal said.
“I don’t believe too much in competition. I believe in trust and confidence. Maybe that is wrong but I have done it all my life.
“I give trust to the players. The problem can be solved with money but also on the training pitch. We are training but scoring goals is a quality. We have that quality but at this moment there is a lack of confidence at the right time or we need to buy another striker.”
In fact, Van Gaal believes adding another striker in the window could put more unwarranted pressure on the players he already has.
The Dutchman points to the example of Javier Hernandez, who left for Bayer Leverkusen last summer, as an example of how frustrated a striker can become if he is not playing.
“We could have kept all the strikers but then there would have been a lot of strikers in the tribune (stand),” said Van Gaal, who also allowed Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao to leave in the close season.
“They are not happy then. They want to go away. It is the story of Hernandez. He wants to play. Too many strikers of high quality for the same position is too much pressure but now I don’t have the chance to change.”
United are nine points adrift of leaders Arsenal, in sixth position. Van Gaal knows he is under pressure to stop more supporter dissatisfaction and prevent the top four breaking away in the coming weeks.
“We cannot allow the gap to grow,” said the United boss, who has lost all three of his matches against Swansea.
“We have to be at the top of the league. That is our aim. We said that at the beginning of this season. The players want to win because we didn’t win several matches in a row.”
In the summer, Van Gaal predicted Luke Shaw would enjoy an exceptional year, but the left-back’s season was brought to a painful halt when he broke his right leg against PSV Eindhoven in September.
Van Gaal has given Shaw a week’s break to help his long recovery, but the United boss does not know if he will play again this term.
“Everything is going well until now but I cannot say whether he will be back this season,” Van Gaal added.
United have cut short Will Keane’s loan at Preston as they “needed an extra body” to bolster their goal-shy attack. Keane has netted twice in 22 appearances for Championship outfit Preston.
Swansea will become only the third team in the Premier League era after Liverpool (December 2000-January 2002) and Manchester City (April 2013-November 2014) to beat United on four successive occasions should they produce another upset.
Those three previous victories have all come against Van Gaal, hence the United manager reference to Swansea as his “ghost team” at his pre-match press conference, and another defeat for the Red Devils could have consequences for the Dutchman’s future at Old Trafford.
“We’ve done exceptionally well against United in the last three fixtures and confidence is creeping back into the team,” caretaker manager Alan Curtis acknowledged, on the back of a three-game unbeaten run which has lifted Swansea two points above the relegation zone.
“We have to show the same spirit we have done in the last couple of weeks and play exceptionally well again.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved