Manchester United have attempted fewer shots than Norwich, Watford and Aston Villa in the Premier League this term and their reluctance to pull the trigger has them on course for their fewest efforts in a season in 15 years.
Louis van Gaal expressed concern at his side’s attacking woes when they fired another Old Trafford blank in a Capital One Cup loss to Middlesbrough on Wednesday, and statistics for the 2014-15 campaign suggest the Dutchman has cause to be anxious.
Through 10 games, Wayne Rooney and company have managed just 105 efforts on goal, which averages out at a paltry 10.5 shots per match.
That current average places them 15th in the division, with Arsenal and Manchester City leading the way with 19.6 and 18.5 shots per game respectively while only Bournemouth, Stoke, Newcastle, West Brom and Sunderland are firing in fewer tries than United at this stage of the season.
United’s lowest average over the past 15 seasons was 13.1 shots per game in 2003-04, and in that period they managed to average over 16 efforts per game in five separate campaigns under Alex Ferguson.
In Van Gaal’s first season at the helm, the Red Devils scored 62 times from 512 attempts.
But their shots- per-match average has since dropped from 13.5 to 10.5 in his second campaign, as his possession-based philosophy continues to come under the microscope.
Successive drab home stalemates against neighbours Manchester City and Boro have left a fanbase used to the swashbuckling era of Ferguson flat, and the lacklustre form of the attack’s spearhead Rooney is coming under increasing scrutiny.
The striker, who recently turned 30, has managed just two Premier League goals this term and is on course to fail to reach double figures in the league for the first time in his 12-year career at Old Trafford.
Summer signing Memphis Depay has been underwhelming too, netting just one league goal after bagging 22 in Holland a season ago, leaving the world’s most expensive teenager Anthony Martial to shoulder the burden of responsibility in United’s attack.
Speaking after the Boro loss, Van Gaal admitted not scoring in 210 minutes at Old Trafford over the past week was a worry.
“Yes, of course. Football — what only matters is a goal,” he said.
“We have played two matches — 0-0. In my opinion we could have scored against Manchester City but, again, that’s the score.
“It is a concern but I do know also that it can easily turn around in the next game.”
The Dutchman also claimed that the defensive organisation of both City and Boro made testing their respective goalkeepers a difficult task.
“Everybody is forgetting that they are playing in a very compact way, like Manchester City did,” Van Gaal added.
“It is very difficult to create chances.”
With fixtures against Crystal Palace, West Brom, Watford and Leicester on the horizon, United will hope they can shake off their shot-shy ways.
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