Manchester United Isn’t Creative Enough In The Final Third

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Although Jose Mourinho is bringing back “the fear factor” at Old Trafford, Manchester United needs to add tenacity and mobility in and around the opposition box.

It’s nothing new to say that ManU’s Jose Mourinho prefers height and physical presence as major criteria in assembling a squad. But intelligence and creativity shouldn’t be left out of the equation. Both attributes play major roles in unlocking an opponent’s defence.

And both were missing in United’s last few games, particularly the matter of creativity in the opposition box. The team is scoring fewer goals and, with that outcome. more needs to be done in the opposition half.

Worse yet, United seems to have lost its rhythm. It’s one reason why Manchester City has opened an 8-point gap on top of the League table. And United now face a tough task to challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title. United’s game against Arsenal, followed by Manchester derby, will be defining moments.

One way to close that gap is for United to start dictating play in the final third.

I think Mourinho recognizes the fact that his forward players need to do more on retaining the ball a bit longer.

It’s apparent that Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata aren’t productive enough in the opposition half. They seem to disappear, in fact. The wide players aren’t putting enough crosses in the box for the strikers. That explains why Romelu Lukaku has struggled recently to score goals.

Poor decision making is evident, too. Team transition from defence to attack is a bit slow, and it’s a reason why the team doesn’t press high enough in the opposition box. Rashford and Martial don’t close down spaces on the flanks to regain possession as quickly as possible.

Mourinho’s side answered critics by hitting four goals against Watford in mid-week. That shows how dangerous ManU can be on the counter-attack when it plays with wing-backs. Ashley Young’s double and Anthony Martial’s calm finish gave United a comfortable lead at halftime.

Romelu Lukaku (photo, Goal,.com)

Looking at that game from a technical point of view, I still think the team needs to work on ball-retention techniques. On several occasions, the team gave away the ball away too easily. Watford capitalized by scoring two quick goals in the second half. But then Jesse Lingard finally made it four with a fine individual effort to end the contest.

Mourinho has repeatedly said that he is not bothered about Lukaku’s goal drought. He says what the Belgium player brings to the team is more important than the goals. And Mourinho singled out Lukaku for praise against Brighton, acknowledging his work rate and determination to win balls.

But to flourish, I think Lukaku needs support from attacking midfielders. United still doesn’t have a natural number 10 to control play in the final third. Their recent games against Chelsea and Brighton failed to produce goal-scoring chances.

 I think it’s time for the club to assess the January transfer market in order to bring in someone who has the quality to unlock opponents’ defence. 

To be fair, United has made tremendous progress since Mourinho arrived. The squad has improved in the areas of defence and midfield. But let’s not forget that much of United’s success over the last few decades is based on the team’s ability to keep asking questions of the opposition’s defence … until it finally collapses under pressure.

Although Mourinho is bringing back “the fear factor” at Old Trafford, his side needs to add tenacity and mobility in and around the opposition box. Going into December’s hectic period, Manchester United needs to improve its effectiveness in the final third.


About Geoffrey Ofoegbu

I’m from Abuja, Nigera. I have passion for football (soccer) and enjoy writing articles about the clubs, managers, players, and anything connected with the game. It has always been my dream to be a sport columnist. Joining the team at TSC is a stepping stone to fulfilling that dream–launching a career in the sports industry. Sport of Expertise: Football, Basketball. Favorite Teams: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal. Favorite Players: Ronaldo, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Antonio Valencia.

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