With their defence in shambles and their midfield appearing sluggish, United's attack is their best chance of winning games for now and should be utilized to the fullest.
Wayne Rooney enjoyed his most prolific season last year as he notched up 27 goals in the Premier League but finished second in the scoring charts behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest summer coup, Robin Van Persie who scored 30. With last year’s top two goal scorers at his disposal, it’s no surprise that Sir Alex reckons his side is strongest in attack but that may be out of necessity rather than luxury.
The number of injuries Manchester United have suffered in defence since the beginning of 2011 is astonishing. With the likes of Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia and even Ryan Giggs filling in at the back, it’s a small miracle that United have remained competitive over this period of time.
United's defence looked ordinary against Spurs
The injuries and drop of form of those defenders available have led to several frailties at the back for the Premier League’s most successful club. The start of this season has been particularly disappointing in that regard as United’s vulnerability in defence has been repeatedly exposed. The Red Devils have conceded 9 goals in 6 league games and anyone who has watched them defend in recent times will know that they could have shipped in a lot more.
To complicate matters for Sir Alex, his midfield pairing of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick although impressive with the ball, have been liable without it. Scholes is a world class playmaker who picks out passes most players wouldn’t even see. But at 37 he simply doesn’t have the legs to offer his defenders any sort of cover. Furthermore, using the veteran alongside a 31 year old Carrick makes it too easy for opponents to get past them and have a clear run on a dodgy central defence.
United's midfield struggles to keep up
The one aspect of United’s game that has precluded them from falling off the pace is their potent strike force which has already yielded 19 goals this season. Van Persie has wasted no time settling in with his new teammates and has already bagged 7 goals in 6 starts. His immediate success in front of goal helped soften the blow of losing Rooney through injury for a month while Shinji Kagawa’s availability eased the selection process for the manager.
Apart from their opening game against Everton, United have managed to score in every game this season. Having the likes of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in reserve speaks volumes of the luxury Sir Alex enjoys in the striking department. Rooney and Van Persie started together for the first time in an away win against CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Rooney slotted in behind a front two of Van Persie and Hernandez.
The combination between last year’s two most prolific strikers in England was evident when Rooney provided the assists for Van Persie’s brace. The second goal in particular accentuated the understanding between the two when Rooney played a delightful pass over the defence having noticed the Dutchman setting off on a run that saw him dart in behind his marker to flick the ball past the keeper and finish off an exquisite move.
Van Persie had Rooney to thank for his brace
Add the creativity and vision of Scholes, Carrick and Kagawa to support that deadly strike partnership and there’s no doubting that Rooney and Van Persie will score many goals between them this season. Ferguson can also switch his system around by focussing more on width as Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young are all accomplished crossers of the ball and they will have plenty to aim for with two world class strikers lurking around in the middle let alone one.
The multitude of options Sir Alex has upfront bodes well for United given that they may have to rely on outscoring their opponents this season if their defence doesn’t get their act together. Also, attack quite often serves as the best form of defence. If United can attack teams and keep them pinned back, there is little chance of their own defence coming under a lot of pressure.
United's attack could steer them past this difficult period
Scoring goals knocks the stuffing out of teams and weakens their desire go forward. By going 2 or 3 goals up in a game, the opposing team struggles to believe in victory and keeps themselves content with seeing out the game to avoid a battering. It may well be a case of United having to win games 3-1 or 4-2 for the time being rather than the more modest but efficient 1-0 or 2-0 score lines.
Rather than over-thinking their defending and still conceding the odd goal or two, perhaps it would be advantageous for the Reds to play to their strengths and focus on dismantling their opponents. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will eventually make their way back from injury but until such time and maybe even beyond it, United would do well to get the ball into the final third as quickly as possible because that is where they are most effective at this moment in time.
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