This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
In a Q&A discussion on The Athletic, journalist Adam Crafton has revealed some of the major problems Manchester United faced in their disappointing 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men went into the break with a 1-0 lead thanks to a fine strike from summer signing Daniel James. However, the home side rallied in the second-half and netted a deserved equaliser, before hanging on for a point after Kevin Danso’s red card.
Now, Crafton has suggested United’s “mentality” was a big factor in their poor showing, and insisted the Red Devils desperately missed a penalty-box poacher.
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He said: “They started sloppily, I think they lost five or six 50/50s in the first five minutes of the game and many simple passes went astray. That is a mentality, rather than a talent, issue.
“This is what surprised me about the Lukaku move. He scores 15 goals a season and he’s a penalty box striker, which is what United missed in those final 15 minutes. Dan James was sensational but he can’t do it all by himself. It’s the part of the game Rashford is missing. Sniffing out those scruffy goals. James’ deliveries were crying out for a poacher.”
And so the ‘United are missing Lukaku’ talk has begun. The Belgium international’s departure to Inter earlier this summer certainly raised a lot of eyebrows amidst fears United hadn’t done enough to effectively replace him. Solskjaer’s trust in his youthful options up front is admirable, but it comes with a lot of caveats.
Their lack of experience at the top level, and a lack of consistency of scoring 20 goals or more over a course of number of seasons, mean it is difficult to rely on them week-in and week-out. James had the better of Southampton full-back Cedric all game, supplying two key passes and six crosses. But each and every time his United teammates either fluffed their lines or were simply nowhere to be seen.
Lukaku’s simple finish on his Inter debut against Lecce showed exactly what the Red Devils are missing out on – someone who is prolific at putting the ball in the back of the net by any means necessary. It may be early days, but United could live to regret their decision to sell the Belgian this summer, or at least the decision not to replace him.