Attack, attack, attack? How Man Utd’s goals have dried up since Sir Alex Ferguson left

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Manchester United were known as the Premier League’s entertainers, sweeping all before them under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Over the 26 years of the Scot’s reign some of the finest attacking talent the country has seen, goalscoring heroes such as the enigmatic Eric Cantona, the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy and the sublime Cristiano Ronaldo graced Old Trafford.

And there was ‘Fergie time’ – those precious final minutes at the end of the game where it became inevitable the Stretford End would suck in a goal to secure the points for the Red Devils.

Those days seem like a long time ago now, with United proving a fading force in front of goal since Ferguson retired in 2013.

Instead, cries of “attack, attack, attack” are commonplace from the home crowd at Old Trafford as they urge their side to regain some of their offensive magic.

Saturday’s dour goalless draw with Crystal Palace was United’s 65th 0-0 draw in the 26 seasons of the Premier League.

But what is notable about that statistic is that 20 of those draws – 31% – have come in the six seasons since Ferguson left.

That is six more than any of their ‘big six’ rivals over the same period.

The ‘big six’ Premier League goalless draws since start of 2013-14
Manchester United 20
Chelsea 14
Liverpool 14
Arsenal 12
Manchester City 12
Tottenham Hotspur 10

United have had three managers in that time – David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho. It won’t be surprising to hear all three have an inferior goals-per-game ratio than Ferguson.

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Mourinho’s ratio of 1.6 is an improvement on his predecessor Van Gaal, who averaged 1.46 goals a game during his two-year spell in charge.

Manchester United’s goals-per-game ratio in the Premier League
Manager Games Goals Goals per game
Sir Alex Ferguson 810 1,627 2.01
David Moyes 34 56 1.65
Jose Mourinho 89 142 1.60
Louis van Gaal 76 111 1.46

One player who has impressed in front of goal for United this season is Anthony Martial, with the Frenchman scoring six so far.

So, despite their struggles, they do have a contender for the Golden Boot – but he faces some stiff competition.

It’s tight at the top

Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane dominated the race for the Premier League Golden Boot last season. Liverpool forward Salah claimed the award with 32 goals – two ahead of Kane – but their nearest challenger, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, scored nine fewer.

This season is shaping up to be much more competitive, with four times the number of players on seven goals or more compared to the same stage of last season.

Salah topped the charts this time last year with 10 goals – two ahead of United’s Romelu Lukaku – with Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette, Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Leroy Sane of Manchester City the nearest challengers on six.

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This time around, it is Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who leads the way with eight, but there are six players lurking just behind them on seven.

Aubameyang has the best scoring ratio of the group, averaging a goal every 118 minutes for Arsenal this season.

Premier League top scorers 2018-19
Player Goals Assists Minutes per goal
Sergio Aguero 8 4 121
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 8 1 118
Raheem Sterling 7 6 134
Eden Hazard 7 4 125
Mohamed Salah 7 3 160
Harry Kane 7 1 166
Aleksandar Mitrovic 7 1 167
Glenn Murray 7 142

On my head, son!

One of those players on seven goals is Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored twice for Fulham against Southampton on Saturday to ensure Claudio Ranieri’s reign as manager got off to a winning start.

Mitrovic’s first-half opener at Craven Cottage was his fourth headed goal this season – more than any other player.

With just a third of the campaign gone, it puts the Serbia international on course to reach double figures for headed goals – something no player has achieved in the Premier League. Everton’s Duncan Ferguson is the record holder with nine headed goals during the 1997-98 season.

Sunday Funday

Arsenal’s qualification for the Europa League has seen a number of their Premier League fixtures switched from a Saturday to a Sunday. That Thursday-Sunday grind is seen as an inconvenience by many – but not by Aubameyang.

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His winner for Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday means he has now scored 14 goals in 16 Premier League matches played on a Sunday – 78% of his total for the club.

No other player with 10 or more Premier League goals has scored as big a percentage on that day, though interestingly Aubameyang’s Arsenal team-mate Lacazette is joint fourth on the list with 57.9%.

Premier League goals scored on a Sunday
Player Total goals Sunday goals Percentage
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 18 14 77.8%
Jack Rodwell 10 6 60%
Divock Origi 12 7 58.3%
Alexandre Lacazette 19 11 57.9%
Georginio Wijnaldum 19 11 57.9%

London calling

Manchester City and Tottenham were victorious in London on Saturday and both clubs have reason to enjoy playing in the capital right now.

City’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham meant they became only the second non-London club to win six consecutive top-flight games in the capital, equalling a feat achieved by Portsmouth 67 years ago.

Tottenham, meanwhile, beat Chelsea at Wembley to move above the Blues into third and continue manager Mauricio Pochettino’s impressive record against fellow London sides. It was the Argentine’s 22nd London derby victory – no other club has won more since he took charge of Spurs in the summer of 2014.

Next up for Tottenham? Arsenal at Emirates Stadium next weekend.


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