Why United will fall short of goals

August 9, 2009 Tags: Reads 12 comments

It’s obvious of course but the major challenge for United in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era is to score enough goals to compensate for the loss of the Portuguese maestro. In the last three years alone the winger-cum-striker scored a phenomenal 91 goals in all competitions at a goals-to-games ratio of better than one in three. Add Carlos Tevez’ 15 strikes in all competitions into the mix and manager Sir Alex Ferguson has to replace 41 goals next season.

The problem is exacerbated when the recent performances of new recruits Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia are taken into account. Owen has averaged around eight goals a season over the past three years, and Valencia less than three.

United hit the back of the net 119 times in 66 competitive games last season. Sir Alex believes the squad can rise to the challenge and score more than 100 goals this season in all competitions. With a minimum of three fewer games next season (no Club World Cup or European Super Cup) the squad probably needs to score 114, assuming the defence is as frugal, just to maintain last year’s performance levels.

But they say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but expect a different result. Yet this is what is expected of the squad this season – largely the same group of players but more goals needed. Based on career games-to-goals ratios and a rough assumption of number of games likely to be played by each squad member next season, Rant expects United to score around 104 goals.

Indeed there may be as many as seven United squad members who need to outperform their career games-to-goals ratios in order for United to hit the 114 goal target. This is without unexpected long-term injuries affecting United’s probable squad rotation. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are also unlikely to hit their career goals-to-games ratio in the coming season.

The key variables that may skew United’s scoring upwards from 104 – and therefore success this season – are Owen’s fitness, Valencia’s ability to improve on past performance and just how many games Federico Macheda gets.

Owen’s career performance suggests around 15 goals this season from 30 games but this is significantly more than the former Liverpool player managed in any season at Newcastle. Valencia too may have to chip in eight goals to keep United on par with last season. But with just seven strikes in the past two seasons the Ecuadorian winger’s ability to do that must be in question. Macheda and Welbeck – United’s two fantastically talented young forwards – may need to chip in 14 goals between them next season.

Wayne Rooney will also be crucial. The striker’s 20 goals last season beat his career goals-to-games average. Rooney started many of those games from the left and conventional wisdom says he’ll score more from a central position. If Rooney hits more than 25 in the coming season United are likely to finish as Premier League champions.

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Elliott - August 9, 2009 Reply

Maybe, just maybe, Berbatov can get a decent run in the side and improve on his paltry tally from last season. I won’t hold my breath of course

timbo - August 9, 2009 Reply

These kind of disections are meaningless, particuarly when the author chooses to cite the contributions of Owen and Valencia over the last year or two. Owen played for a team that performed so poorly it was relegated. Valencia played for another no-hoper. How does there record with those two teams translate to playing for the EPL champion of the last three years, a team where their they’ll be surrounded by incomparably better talent that will maximize their opportunities to score more freely? Both players have already shown in the pre-season how much better off they are with United, particuarly Owen, who could have bagged at least a brace against Valencia bit for having an off day with his boot.

Valencia will easily provide more assists than goals this year, but with what he has shown so far I would expect him to contribute at least 10 goals for the season. And as Owen seems to be shaping up as a quality reserve and rotation player, a dozen or so goals from him during the year would be just fine – if he can stay fit. The two who I expect to ramp up their contributions this year are Rooney and Berbatov, who I think will contribute about 50% of United’s goals between them. The question that remains is who extactly will be handed the dead ball duties, as 2 – 3 players spring readily to mind to replace Ronaldo’s efforts with free kicks and penalties. It’s a shame that Hargreaves is still out, as to my mind he would have been the ideal replacement for free kicks.

SW - August 9, 2009 Reply

To be fair a lot of Ronaldos goals came from penalties and free kicks. Those goals will likely not disappear but be scored by whoever else will be taking them (the pens at least). Its likely that valencia will score a few and probably create more chances for others than Ronaldo who tended not to have many assists in a season preferring to shoot than pass and playing more centrally rather than whipping in crosses from the byline. And also as much as i dislike Michael Owen its probably fair to say he has a better goalscoring instincts than Tevez ie gets into better positions, times his runs better and is a better finisher.

tommy - August 9, 2009 Reply

I don’t see why we should be concerned with this to be honest. Doesn’t anyone remember when Ruud left? 150 goals in 220 matches was a phenomenal record, far better than Ronnie’s and people said exactly the same thing when he left – however will we replace his goals by just signing Carrick? Ruud even scored more goals than Ronaldo did in both their last seasons.
The first season without Ruud we managed to score more goals than we had in the previous 4, despite not signing anyone to replace him. We adapted and improved when Ruud left, just like we adapted when Cantona retired, and just like we’ll adapt now.

20legend - August 9, 2009 Reply

If Rooney takes the penalties, you can safely assume he will score 25+. Berbatov will score more too. You can’t really expect Scholes and Giggs to score a lot but with the midfielders expected to get forward more, you can expect them to score more too. I am not concerned about United scoring goals. Ronaldo scored a lot of goals not because of some extraordinary talent (that helped I am sure) but because he was usually the right man at the right place. He wasn’t a particularly excellent finisher either. It is simply a case of who will step up into the role of premier goalscorer. Rooney? Berbatov? Owen? Macheda? Who knows. But whoever steps up will get us plenty of goals. I fully expect Rooney and Berbatov to get 50-60 goals this season.

Smidelet - August 10, 2009 Reply

I always find analysis like this fascinating.

The phrase ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ immediately springs to mind. As pointed out earlier Owen should score more coz he’ll get more chances. Same goes for Valencia.

There’ll be more onus on Rooney too so expect a hatful from him this season. I see he’s 12/1 to be Prem top scorer. If he’s on the pens this could be a cracking bet.

Ichiro - August 11, 2009 Reply

Theres only so many chances and goals you can score in a match. Ronaldo used to take those chances himself, with him gone someone else will take them.

People said the same when Ruud left, where would we find the goals, but Ronaldo until then an unlikely goalscorer, stepped up. Same thing will happen this year, Im betting it will be Rooney.

andrew - August 11, 2009 Reply

Nice to see american words like “assists” creeping into the game ..haha

Ed - August 12, 2009 Reply

Is that American?!

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