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United short of strikers after James Wilson loaned out

27 November 2015, 18:05

Manchester - As the final whistle blew on Manchester United's fourth goalless draw in its last seven matches, the boos filling Old Trafford were another indicator of disenchantment about the team's playing style.

The bold, attacking approach in the long tenure of Alex Ferguson is nowhere to be seen at United these days, with caution appearing to reign under Louis van Gaal. And the 0-0 draw against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Wednesday was too much for some.

Also read: Klopp won't rush Sturridge back into action

Former United midfielder Paul Scholes bemoaned the lack of goal threat, saying United is missing the attacking strength to be a threat in Europe this season. Fans on phone-ins said United had become boring, particularly considering the money the club has spent to restore its fortunes after David Moyes' ill-fated spell in charge.

"Of course (I am worried about the fans)," Van Gaal said Friday, "because the fans have to be happy. You are playing for the fans, so you cannot deny that.

"But also you have to see how our opponents are playing against us, and when you see how they play, you know the difficulty of organizing against that type of opponent."

United has only one first-half goal in its last eight games, and only six goals in total in that period. So worrying is the shortage of goals that it came as a surprise when United announced Thursday that youngster James Wilson, one of only three out-and-out strikers in the squad, had joined second-tier club Brighton on loan for the rest of the season.

It leaves United with just Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial as genuine strikers, and suggests Van Gaal will continue to use midfielders Marouane Fellaini and Memphis Depay as makeshift forwards this season.

"In the short term, maybe it's not so good for Manchester United," Van Gaal said, defending the decision to let Wilson leave, "but in the long term, it's better. It is part of the development of a player.

"If we weren't creating chances I'd be worried," Van Gaal added, "but we are and we don't give too much away, normally our results are good."

One of the reasons Danny Welbeck was allowed to leave for Arsenal last season was because Van Gaal was excited at the progress of Wilson, and saw the teenager being a more prolific back-up at the time to Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Wilson has played two games for United this season, and has scored four goals in 20 games overall.

Still, despite United's issues in attack, the team is second in the Premier League and will go top by beating first-place Leicester on Saturday. United's position among the title contenders, after two years out of the race for the championship, is perhaps stopping more dissent among the fans.

United lost 5-3 on its last visit to the King Power Stadium, when Jamie Vardy was one of the scorers. Vardy has now scored in his last 10 league games, and a goal against United will break the record for scoring in consecutive league matches, a record he currently shares with former United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

"He was already last season a very nasty player for us," Van Gaal said of Vardy. "He scored, won a penalty, and now he is scoring 10 games in a row. Then you are a great player. I only know, for example, Dennis Bergkamp as a player who did the same with Ajax. It's not so easy to do that."

Van Gaal said Leicester is a genuine title contender, even though the Midlands side was scrapping to avoid relegation last season.

"It is possible, I think," Van Gaal said. "Normally these kind of clubs can be a long time competing, but normally at the end it's more difficult.

"But in England, because of the quality of the teams, because every team has the money to buy players, and they have bought players, the difference in the Premier League between the clubs in level is not so high."

- AP


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