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Erik ten Hag could face Man Utd sack for betraying club’s heritage | Football | Sport

Manchester United’s goal difference in the Premier League this season stands at zero – 36 goals scored, 36 conceded. For a club that prides itself on a proud tradition of playing exciting, attacking football, with goals the only currency that matters, it is a damning betrayal of United’s rich heritage.

Unsurprisingly, given their lack of success in finding the net, United are near the bottom of the Premier League’s chance conversion table, only Sheffield United, Burnley and Everton below them. Of the 489 shots at goal United have had in the league this season, they have managed to score just 36, a chance conversion rate of a meagre 7.4 per cent.

This season has been a tale of missed opportunities in front of goal, and it was a similar story on Wednesday, as United laboured to a 1-0 FA Cup win at Nottingham Forest, with an 89th minute winner from Casemiro seeing them into the quarter-finals.

At the City Ground, United should have been 2-0 up inside 10 minutes, Antony clipping the bar with a dipping effort, followed by Scott McTominay squandering a free header from point-blank range, while Marcus Rashford’s miserable season continued with another glaring miss.

Without first-choice striker Rasmus Hojlund, who overcame a slow start to his United career with five goals in successive Premier League games – 13 for the season in all competitions – before injury struck, Erik ten Hag’s men are blunt going forward. Rashford, who plundered a career-best 30 goals last season, has just five to his name this term.

While skipper and playmaker Bruno Fernandes, who scored so freely in previous seasons, has seven, his last Premier League strike coming way back on November 4. With Anthony Martial a permanent hostage to injury and consistently unreliable even when fit, and £85million flop Antony without a Premier League goal this season, the scoring burden has been passed on to others in United’s squad.

Midfielder McTominay has been pushed further up the pitch when selected and justified that new advanced role with eight goals, while winger Alejandro Garnacho has seven to his name. Yet those are not exceptional numbers compared to forward players at the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, when you consider Erling Haaland has 27 goals, Phil Foden 16, Mo Salah 19, Diogo Jota 14, Bukayo Saka 16 and Leandro Trossard 10.

Such disparity shows the extent of the scoring and finishing crisis at United, whose lack of goals is down to a combination of low confidence, poor technique and an inherent lack of understanding between Ten Hag’s attack. Too often, the likes of Rashford, Garnacho and Antony – when selected – choose the wrong option, seeking to go it alone when a pass to a team-mate in a better position to score is the correct choice.

United’s lowest goal return of the Premier League era is 49, under Louis van Gaal, in the 2015-16 campaign, which ended with him getting the sack, despite lifting the FA Cup. With 12 games left, United will surely surpass that total, even taking into account their profligacy in front of goal.

But with a trip to Manchester City up next on Sunday, and Liverpool and Arsenal still to come in the league, there is the very real prospect of United ending up with a negative goal difference for the first time since 1989-90. That would be a damning indictment of their current predicament and do little to convince new United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe to keep Ten Hag.

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