On and off the field, Manchester United bolstered their roster last season with notable acquisitions.
Manchester United raised the bar last summer when they announced the hiring of a “set-piece” specialist. The pressure was so great that the manager at the time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even addressed the topic of his coming in a public interview.
“He’s a highly regarded coach who will also be in control of the team’s set-plays, ” “Ramsay will be entrusted with working one-on-one with each player, as well as taking responsibility of the team’s set plays, according to Norwegian coach Age Hareide. People’s initial reaction to United’s set-piece tactics was to expect they would suddenly play like a Sam Allardyce or Tony Pulis team with an emphasis on physical presence and well-crafted routines.
With increased expectation, though, comes a greater height from which to plummet. The irony is not lost on anyone that it took United 140 Premier League corners before they scored their first goal after hiring a specialist.
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At Elland Road on Saturday, United’s Harry Maguire headed home a Luke Shaw cross after a long time in the making—but the team had already scored from a similar situation this summer.
United added a second goal in the last friendly against Everton, when Shaw swung a corner into the path of the captain, who powered a header past Jordan Pickford.
On that particular day, Solskjaer’s team scored three goals from set pieces, two of which came immediately from free kicks: Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot, who scored with an improvised header after a short corner routine.
United’s set-piece woes have been widely chronicled since then. This season, they have attempted 50 shots from corners, but only one has been successful. The majority of Harry Maguire’s 18 shots on goal have come from inside the box, with 12 of those coming from inside the box.
United should have scored three and a half times as many goals this season based on the quality of their opportunities created from corners, but they only have one. When it comes to goals from set pieces, they should have 4.83, but they only have 2. One direct free kick and one of their three league penalties were both missed, resulting in a 0.92 goal differential.
Five goals have been scored on dead ball opportunities this season, which generally yield 11.13 goals. However, things aren’t all gloom and despair in the universe.
At the protest of Ramsay this week, Darren Fletcher said: “People only provide a single story about scoring from set-pieces. “Eric was hired in large part as a result of our high number of goals conceded from set pieces.
“Set-piece and wide free-kick defending has been greatly improved this season. Eric is an excellent trainer.”
This past season, United allowed 15 goals from set pieces, which was the second-worst record in the Premier League. They have allowed just five goals so far this season, which is the sixth-lowest total in the top tier.
United should have given up 10.97 goals based on the set pieces they faced. The fact that they have allowed less goals than expected is in large part due to Ramsay.
It’s reasonable to criticize United for their lack of threat from set pieces, but evaluating the impact of their’specialist’ hire must also consider the team’s defense.