United’s frustrated forwards: Analysis of the Red Devils attack this season

Following the impressive goal scoring returns of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood United fans expected the Red Devils to pick up from where they left off at the end of the 2019/20 season. However, this season the three young forwards have lacked chemistry and have not combined in a prolific manner.

Last season’s firing forwards

During the transfer window, United failed to add to their attack. The Red Devils missed out on long term target Jadon Sancho. Moreover they also failed with a late move for Frenchman Ousmane Dembele. Yet there was still an air of excitement for the upcoming season due to United’s attacking prowess. Following the resumption of the 2019/20 season, Manchester United went unbeaten in the league. This provided them with a 3rd place finish and a much-needed UEFA Champions League spot. United’s improved form, which saw them climb from 5th to 3rd, was mainly because of the great from of the three dynamic forwards.

This seasons failing fowards:

Manchester United were given an extended break due to the late ending of last season. This was the result of their progression to the semi-finals of the Europa League. The cost of starting the season later was evident with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men only having two weeks to prepare for the season opener against Crystal Palace. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial started against the Eagles, while Mason Greenwood came on in the second half. All three looked lethargic as Solskjaer saw his side slump to a 3-1 defeat against Palace.

Glimpses of quality were on show at Brighton where the frontmen looked much livelier. Marcus Rashford scored a stunning solo goal and was in fine form during the second half. Concerns remained even after United’s win as the three were non-existent in the first half. Additionally, Martial failed to register a shot on target for the second successive game. United’s poor start to the season was compounded by their 6-1 humiliation at Old Trafford . Martial was sent off with United trailing 2-1 and from that point onwards United’s forwards were left isolated.

New frontline a short term solution?

Mason Greenwood then picked up an injury and with Martial suspended, Solskjaer reverted to a completely different forward line. This new look attack was successful against a very weak Newcastle side. United’s goals soon dried out after the Newcastle game, in which they failed to score in consecutive home games against Arsenal and Chelsea. Edison Cavani scored his first goal in red in a much more attacking United side that won at Goodison Park . But United failed to score in open play again at Old Trafford in the match against relegation threatened West Brom. Van De Beek’s consolation goal against Palace remains the only open play goal scored by United at home the league.

Forwards fire United top in Europe

In the UEFA Champions League Manchester United have been a completely different animal. Rashford ran riot against Paris Saint-Germain although Martial put in another below-par performance. Anthony Martial headed in at the wrong end and almost cost his side the three points. When, RB Leipzig came to town United were firing on all cylinders. Martial and Mason Greenwood started in a front two and caused their backline, which included United target Upamecano, all sorts of problems. Greenwood opened the scoring, Rashford scored a second half hattrick from the bench and then gave the opportunity for Anthony Martial to open his account for the season.

The Frenchman grasped the opportunity by calmly slotting away the penalty and then followed that up with a headed goal against Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir. The combination of Rashford, Martial, Greenwood and Cavani could not save United from yet another humiliating defeat at the hands of Istanbul.

The goals will come?

This season United’s forwards having been incredibly in-consistent, in which they epitomise the general performances produced by United this season. Juan Mata and Daniel James have featured more than expected and this is predominately because of their adherence to defensive duties. Despite this, it is imperative that Solskjaer finds a place in his team for all three of his favoured forwards, due to the attacking qualities they possess when in form.

Their form will likely improve when Solskjaer finds his ideal midfield. Currently, the Norwegian manager is using a much more defensive midfield, consisting of Scott Mctominay and Fred to provide United’s leaky backline with greater protection. Now that United seem less vulnerable at the back Ole will surely begin to experiment more with his midfield as his quest to accommodate World-Cup winner Paul Pogba and the maestro Bruno Fernandes continues. With the qualities of both playmakers it will only be a matter of time for United’s forwards to regain their prolific form.

Author: Rajan Sangha

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