In his reflective thoughts of Manchester United’s regrettable exit from the Carling Cup, Sir Alex Ferguson stated the obvious by claiming that “Goals change games.”
That simple, straight-to-the-point statement simply meant that the United players should have gotten a goal before they were victimize by their opponents, which would have vastly improved their chances of winning the match.
There is an old saying, “The early bird always gets the worm,” and, in terms of scoring, the United players need start to applying it to their game.
As a player, you are instructed from an early age to score early and as often as possible, because it puts you in a really prominent position to get a positive result, and forces their opponents change their tactics.
There will be many harsh, but constructive tutorials for the young United players to learn throughout their careers as they strive to make the club a force to be reckoned with, but is being ruthless a learned trait?
During their 29 match unbeaten streak, United were sometimes guilty of conceding a weak goal, or three, but to their credit, the Reds were never behind going into half-time.
However, there were times that the Reds should have been at least a goal or two to the good, but their lack of killer instinct prevented them from doing so.
Football is a very cruel game, and if a team does not capitalize on their chances then they will be forced to suffer the ultimate price, which has happened to United recently.
The proof is in the pudding, because in Manchester United’s last three matches, which offered up three very different results, scoring early, or not, could very well have changed any of those outcomes.
Each match offered United a chance to grab a goal within the first 10 minutes of the match, which they only did once, so their inability to do so forced them to be either grind out a result, or, as witnessed against West Ham United, being completely put under the cosh.
The one time in the last three matches that United did managed to score early, they produced their result of season.
First, against Rangers, United had a very good penalty claim when Dimitar Berbatov was tackled from behind by Steven Davis.
The referee, wrongfully, thought differently, and waved away their half-hearted appeals, which would have shifted the stingy Scottish Champions’ defensive-minded formation and, ultimately, led to Rangers being exposed at the back.
Thankfully, the referee, or one of his five assistants, awarded United a penalty near the end of the match, which assured them of a certain place in the Knockout phase in the UEFA Champions League.
Their next match showed a similar result, but completely contrasting performance, and it has to be down to scoring early.
United scored their first of seven goals against Blackburn without two minutes even gone off the clock, and the rest of what transpired at Old Trafford has been well-documented and does not need to be restated.
Finally, in their last match, United had a very good initial chance to open the scoring, but Gabriel Obertan’s close-range shot struck the foot of the post, and that most certainly would have set a very different tone for the match against the Hammers.
Instead of being in a good position of winning their third consecutive Carling Cup trophy, United were left to rue their missed chanced, and learn yet another valuable lesson as they will watch another club lift the first piece of silverware of the season.
In their 15 Barclays Premier League matches, United has only scored only three of their 35 goals in the first fifteen minutes, which, in terms of balance, is not good enough.
On the contrary, United has scored nine goals in the last 15 minutes of the match, which is a true testament to the never-say-die attitude Ferguson has instilled in the players.
United is not alone here, though, because if one examines Chelsea’s results at the start of the season, then they will clearly see that the Blues normally scored in the first 15 to 20 minutes.
In their last four matches, Chelsea has only scored twice, which has enabled United to steam to the top of the Barclays Premier League standings.
With all things considered, Manchester United has score three more goals than any other team in the Barclays Premier League, but it would be nice to see them score more of their chances, which would settle not only their nerves, but those of the supporters as well.