You can see why Sir Alex Ferguson is trying his utmost to push through the singing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal – his Manchester United side have forgotten how to score a goal.
It might only be pre-season and what happens to United on the pitch over the summer will be forgotten should they go and put a few past Everton at Goodison Park in their opening Premier League fixture, but the lack of goals from the Red Devils must be giving Ferguson cause for concern.
It certainly explains the Scot’s bizarre outburst where he bemoaned the fact Arsenal weren’t just selling Van Perise to United because he told them to, while at the same time claiming Paris Saint Germain’s decision to pay €45million for 19 year-old United target Lucas Moura is yet more evidence that the game has “gone mad”. Ferguson has obviously forgotten that he bought 18-year-old Wayne Rooney back in 2004 in a transfer which by today’s money is the equivalent of nearly £63 million.
Hannover’s 34 Bundesliga matches saw only 86 goals last term – the fourth lowest in the division – at an average of 2.48 goals a game, which means that 57 per cent of their games finished with two goals or less.
But if this sort of thing is to be expected from Ferguson, a lack of goals from his teams certainly isn’t and he must be worried about what he is seeing from his players this summer. In five pre-season games United have scored just three goals, each of which came against poor opponents in the shape of South African clubs AmaZulu and Ajax Cape Town and Chinese outfit Shanghai Shenhua. Two subsequent games have ended in 0-0 draws: one against Norwegian side Valarenga, the other against Barcelona on Wednesday evening.
Now a goalless draw against the Spanish giants is a fine result, and Ferguson afterwards exclaimed himself pleased with the workout, but United’s woes in front of goal were underlined by the fact Rooney missed a first half spot kick.
To make matters worse, in the penalty shoot out after the 90 minutes United missed both of their efforts and lost 2-0 in a best of three competition.
It is truly remarkable, and it will be interesting to see if this is just a summer blip or carries on into the early weeks of the new Premier League season: only then will we know if the psychological effect of losing the league title in the manner they did on the last day of 2011/12 season is a serious issue.
United’s final pre-season fixture of a strange summer – I haven’t even touched on the Glazers’ controversial IPO and the New York Stock Market floatation, as if I did I’d be here all week – is against Bundesliga side Hannover 96, who are 14/5 to continue the Red Devils’ underwhelming summer. The draw is 23/10, with United at 83/100 and on their form this summer that is just too short to back.
As well as problems at the top end of the pitch, Ferguson has worries in defence, with injuries to Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans meaning Michael Carrick had to fill in at the back against Barca and may well be forced to when United go to Everton a week on Monday.
With Nemanja Vidic easing his way back to full fitness after a serious injury sustained in December, Ferguson has a few problems to address and given their results over the summer you can’t be having that odds-on.
Especially not when Hannover have enjoyed a reasonable pre-season. The Germans have already started their competitive season, seeing off Irish side St. Patrick’s Athletic 5-0 on aggregate in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
They should therefore give United a good workout and I think under 2.5 goals at 19/20 is the way to go here once more.
Hannover’s 34 Bundesliga matches saw only 86 goals last term – the fourth lowest in the division – at an average of 2.48 goals a game, which means that 57 per cent of their games finished with two goals or less. That, coupled with the way United have gone about pre-season, means that at a shade under evens you’re getting a decent enough price for an outcome that statistics back up.
Recommended bet: Under 2.5 goals in the game @ 19/20
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