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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