There are lots of theories behind Manchester United’s poor start to the season.
The lack of a good goal scorer. Summer signing Rasmus Højlund has yet to see the pitch while Anthony Martial continues to be Anthony Martial.
Those all have merit. But there’s another, simpler and more obvious answer — at least when it comes to scoring goals. It’s possible that the reason they’ve struggled to convert their chances is because they’re still too reliant on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, and neither man had played well this season until Saturday’s 3-2 comeback victory over Nottingham Forest.
You know the old saying: “When it rains, it pours”? Well, this past week a hurricane touched down at Old Trafford.
The club rightfully decided to cut ties with Mason Greenwood but bungled the process so badly that they raised even more questions and red flags.
Then, later in the week, it was announced that both Mason Mount and Luke Shaw would be out of action with injuries. The latter could be gone for a while, necessitating a detour into the transfer market (including a rumor about a potential loan deal for Chelsea flop Marc Cucurrela).
Things got worse when the match against Nottingham Forest started. United’s defense got caught out twice in the first five minutes and shipped two goals before most fans had even reached their seats. There were likely plenty of United fans who had bad flashbacks to last year’s 4-0 humbling at Brentford in the second week of the season.
Maybe that was the wake up call United needed, because from then on, it was pretty much one-way traffic. United ended the match with 66% possession and 18 shots compared to only 9 for Forest.
Rashford and Fernandes were at the center of United’s comeback. Playing in his natural position as a left winger, Rashford was a terror all match, causing havoc in the attacking zone and generating chances for his team. The first goal came about from some great one-on-one play down the left from Rashford. He pulled some of Forest’s defenders away from the box, creating space for Christian Eriksen to finish smartly once Rashford crossed it for him.
For the second goal, Fernandes sent a free kick directly to Rashford, who then lofted it into the box for a charging Fernandes. The captain timed his run perfectly and then squared the ball to a wide open Casemiro, who had missed a sitter earlier in the match but made no mistake this time.
Then for the third goal, Rashford once again made a great one-on-one move into the box and drew a clear penalty, allowing Fernandes to win it from the spot.
“Every team in the start has areas they have to improve and we have some, we have to progress there if you want to be successful but you see this team has big characters, big personalities,” Erik ten Hag said after the match. “There’s big spirit in this team, they found a way to win.”
Big personalities, indeed. Based on what we’ve seen so far, this season, they’ll need to keep imposing themselves, otherwise this team could be in trouble.