Three from United gave Ten Hag the answer he was looking for

Manchester Evening News

24.10.2022, 10:52

At the weekend, in the derby against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Manchester United were seconds away from a second game without a goal in their last three Premier League games.

The Devils, who arrived in west London buoyed by a good performance and a 2-0 win over Tottenham on Wednesday, dominated for long periods against Graham Potter’s side but could never find a way through. The visitors wasted several good chances in the first half and Jorginho’s coolly scored 87th-minute penalty looked to be enough for Chelsea to claim the three points.

But just as time was running out, Casemiro picked the perfect moment to score his first goal for his new team, heading home Luke Shaw’s excellent pass.

The goal earned United a well-deserved draw and the team are just a point off the top 4. In that line of thinking, things are going according to plan, despite a shaky start to the campaign. But then things started to fall into place.

Since the 3-6 defeat by Manchester City in the derby some 20 days ago, the Red Devils are unbeaten in their last four Premiership games, recording two wins and two draws against tough opposition. It definitely was

solid answer

nand the humiliation of the Etihad

but in those matches United scored just five goals – an average of 1.25 per game.

Photo: Getty Images

Including both Europa League clashes against Cypriot side Omonia, United have conceded just nine goals in their last six games. This is far from something so catastrophic, but still 1.5 goals per game is not what is expected from a team with such a class. Especially when two of those six matches have been against seventh-placed Cyprus…

However, United’s last two Premier League games – a 2-0 win over Tottenham and a 1-1 draw with Chelsea – have given Erik ten Hag what he was looking for after a narrow 1-0 defeat at Omonia a dozen days ago at home. We remind you that the winning goal was scored in the 3rd minute of extra time, and its author was Scott McTominay.

After this match, the Dutch manager called

players in all positions

to search harder for hits,

since up to that point only the strikers had scored. And since making that statement, each of United’s last three goals has come from central midfielders – Bruno Fernandes, Fred and Casemiro.

“I think we need goal support from the midfield and the defensive line,” were the exact words of the coach after the match with Omonia at Old Trafford.

And although the forwards have quieted down since then, his insistence on more from the midfielders has been duly answered.

Fernandez scored spectacularly against Spurs, Fred was a little lucky to score in the same game, and Casemiro came on brilliantly at the end against Chelsea to send the away crowd into ecstasy.

But while these “engine room” hits are undoubtedly pleasing to Ten Haag, he’s beginning to understand why

United must attract

world class striker

as part of the next phase of team restructuring. It’s just that the Devils desperately need a reliable source of goals to make their return to the big stage.

After the “hiccup” with Chelsea, the manager said the following: “This was our fourth game in ten days and you can see that especially our strikers need freshness. And if they don’t have it – they don’t score. We should have scored in the first half and made it easier for ourselves life.”

This is the truth – with a top striker, the life of the “red devils” will be much easier. But the goals from the “machine” always bring huge dividends.