Manchester United recorded a much-needed 2-1 win over Swansea last weekend at Old Trafford, breaking a run of barren form that has had pressure mounting at the historic club.
Louis van Gaal’s position has been questioned in recent weeks after the Red Devils were eliminated from the Champions League and their domestic form dipped. The victory over the Welsh side ended a run of eight games without a victory for United – form that threatened to see the club drop to the nightmare days of David Moyes’ reign.
However, despite the win over Swansea and the the performance being better than in the games that preceded it, United’s frailties and flaws were still on show.
Goals from both Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney sealed the three points for the home side, but without the attacking pair’s individualism and moments of creativity and magic, another defeat would have been on the cards. United have lacked penetration and purpose in the final third this season, with a sheer dearth of options for Van Gaal to select from.
The summer sales of Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez, coupled with Radamel Falcao’s loan stint finishing, were, at the time, not of major concern.
However, looking at it six months later, had United been able to rely on one of these number nines to complement the existing options at their disposal, they may well be in the title race currently – or at least in the top four. The team’s 24 goals in 20 matches is simply not good enough to fire them into Champions League qualification contention, with it difficult to see just how the situation is going to change without investment this January.
Rooney has been off the boil largely this season and the team have suffered as a result; the Old Trafford faithful will hope that his improvised winner against the Swans can be a springboard to get him back to somewhere near his best.
Martial has had a promising introduction to English football, but at 20 years of age he is still learning the game and cannot be expected to score the goals single-handedly to see a club of United’s stature reach its ambitions.
Talk has been rife of the Red Devils splurging on new attacking faces this month and with good reason, with little or no personnel to constitute a ‘Plan B’ if Rooney or Martial cannot deliver.
Felipe Anderson and Sadio Mane are being discussed as potential targets, with the pair able to inject pace and drive in wide areas. However, it is my view that United need a number nine to add to their striking options; a lethal marksman who can score 10-15 goals through the remainder of the campaign.
The current reliance on an out-of-sorts Rooney and young Martial is not sustainable, with this flaw evident against Swansea.