Manchester United lost more ground in the race for the Premier Leauge top four on Tuesday night, needing a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw against Everton at Old Trafford.
The draw means that Man United’s unbeaten record in the league now stretches to 20 games – though since embarking on that run they have moved up just one place n the table and are four points behind rivals Manchester City in fourth with just nine games remaining.
The most alarming pattern in Man United’s season appears to be their failure to put teams away at home – Tuesday’s draw was their ninth league stalemate this season and their fourth in five games.
Manager Jose Mourinho has laid the fault for the problem squarely at some of his forwards and midfielders who he feels are not contributing enough. Ibrahimovic aside, Man United have found goals very hard to come by and Mourinho had no problem calling out those who he feels are responsible after the Everton result:
“20 matches unbeaten is amazing.
“I would sign immediately for that next year because in the modern Premier League it is really, really difficult to do – but we need to score goals to win matches.
“We don’t score enough goals, it is as simple as that.
“The pragmatism is – how many goals have (Marcus) Rashford, (Jesse) Lingard, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan, (Ander) Herrera, (Paul) Pogba scored? How many goals from these attacking players? Not enough.”
Between them, the aforementioned quintet have contributed 11 goals between them in the league this season (compared to Zlatan’s 15). All five played some part in the match on Tuesday, which might go some way towards explaining why Mourinho left Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney, who themselves have only a combined five league goals this campaign, out of his criticism.
While this season is still far from a total failure (especially with the Europa League still to play for), the lack of goals should be a worry and has more in common with the Louis van Gaal era than many (Mourinho being at the front of that queue) would like to admit.
Mourinho had threatened to prioritise the Europa League by resting his players in the Premier League, and that prospect grows nearer. They are five games in continental competition from a return to the Champions League, yet they’re also four points from the top four and no longer have a game in hand on Manchester City.