In the first game of the double header against Real Soceidad, United had 18 shots at the Basque side's goal, none found the net, and it took an own goal for us to get the breakthrough. Last night, United had 6 shots at Soceidad's goal, none found the net despite the fact that those 6 included 2 open goals and a penalty.
This is not a critique of our strikers for it is trite that all strikers miss chances, but this is quickly becoming a theme in our season so far that has already cost us a number of points in the league. Given that a shot against the frame of the goal is considered off-target, I'd like to think that it's therefore not ill-luck but poor finishing that is at the moment responsible for our lack of goals in games. A couple of games come to mind: the chances we had whilst leading Southampton 1-0 including hitting the frame of the goal twice and the chances we had at Anfield when for the entire second half we attacked their goal but failed to make the openings count. There was a time when a missed chance was not so much of a disaster but teams all over Europe and indeed in the country have improved and hence a missed chance is almost certainly going to come back and haunt you in a game. It's no wonder why leading 1-0 or 2-0 these days is not as comfortable as it used to be.
Javier Hernandez missed a couple of sitters in the League Cup against Norwich but his 2 goals and the nature of the game meant that that did not come under scrutiny. I do like the boy and think that he is destined to end his career as a goal scoring legend, at least for his country. However for what his contribution is on the pitch, you expect that he puts away the vital chances more often than he does for us. Ruud van Nistelrooy didn't do much in terms of inter-play and hold-up play up-front, but boy didn't he always bloody finish it when it was in that 6 yard box.
To be fair to Chicharito, the ball bubbled up just before he hit it but such is the expectation of world class strikers of which he is among. Given that his job is essentially to tap in goals, you'd think he's known about all sorts of ways of effectively dealing with balls at that pace. Just to be clear, the issue is not his goals per game ratio (which is very good by the way), it's his goals per chance ratio. Whereas he's come off the bench too score a few one chance winners for us, he does often get more than the one chance. In the same breath, it is also vital to note that RVP has one of the worst chance conversion rates in the league, but unlike the Mexican, RVP bring a load more to his game that excuses that particular fault. Hernadez however doesn't need all those other traits if he can perfect the art of putting away not just the routine goals (which is is already good at) but even the vital ones more often. It's a trade that was mastered by football greats Fillippo Inzaghi and Ruud van Nistelrooy before him. He is perhaps the only striker in world football (and that is some complement) that has the ability to be as great as the above names in terms of simply putting the ball away no matter the height, angle, or fixture. You do have to feel sympathy for him given his place in our hierarchy of strikers, but something tells me if he had scored last night, he'd have made the selection for Sunday that much harder for the manager simply because fans would not want a striker that puts away just about every crumb that comes his way on the bench. Now its easy to drop him without incurring dissent from the fans.
In the grand scheme of things, the point leaves us needing a result in Germany against Bayer Leverkusen to make it to the last 16. We've got 2 games against the trickier sides in the group and we have to win one of them. That cannot be too much to ask from the team.
Attention shifts to Sunday in what is our biggest game of the season to date. Arsenal are 8 points ahead of us in the league and just like it was when they visited us in 2004/05 season looking to make it 50 games unbeaten, we simply have no choice but to win the game by the final whistle come Sunday. More on that later in the week.
Labels: UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE