‘Everyone knew United had a knack of scoring late goals. Seeing me point to my timepiece, our opponents would feel they would have to defend against us through a spell of time that would feel, to them, like infinity.’ – Sir Alex Ferguson (My Autobiography 2013).
Throughout Ferguson’s reign, late goals were part of the proverbial furniture at Old Trafford, with the Scot admitting that he tapped his watch purely to strike fear into the opposition. Regardless of the stance of the game, United fans always had faith in the team to pull off a late parade; a unique trait which acted as a foundation of the club.
However I question whether this famous quality has prolonged under the tenure of David Moyes, who understandably is still experiencing the transition period which happens when a long-serving manager passes the scrutiny-filled mantle over to the new, in Moyes’ case, 50-year-old kid on the block.
In the last 15 minutes of games in the Premier League this year, The Red Devils have netted five times, in four different games. However, 3 of the goals have come when Manchester United have been either in a comfortable lead or when the game had already been lost. To put it in context, United have only gained 3 points this season from goals in the last 15 minutes.
In contrast, at this point last season, the champions had scored 10 goals in the last 15 minutes of games, of which seven of the goals were vital in gaining pivotal points that sent them to their 20th league title. A priceless 13 points were gained from those 7 goals in the minutes 75-90, with some of them having psychological as well as economical benefits.
Also poignant are the scorers of those goals which proved so crucial. Robin van Persie scored four of them, Hernandez picking up the other three, with a factor this season being the lack of game time each striker has had, whether it be through injury or team selection, respectively.
The feeling this year has been different nearing the last 15 minutes of games under Moyes. Though pressure on the oppositions defence has still been present, the knack of netting those trademark late goals has been absent; take home games against West Brom, Everton, Tottenham.
If we are to witness a second half of the season turnaround from Manchester United, late goals will have to make a return. Or in other words, Moyesy, time to get a watch.
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