Is Manchester United's attack really that bad?
By Joe Harker
Former Manchester United star Paul Scholes has criticised the attacking play at the club, claiming that even world class forward Lionel Messi would struggle to shine in the current setup. The Barcelona player is often regarded as the best in the world but to suggest he would not do well at Old Trafford right now is a damning indictment of the poor attacking play on offer at the club.
Scholes has been a vocal critic of United since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and often with good reason. Immediate successor David Moyes looked out of his depth, Louis Van Gaal's style was boring and uncreative while current manager Jose Mourinho hasn't been able to get his attack firing either.
Since Ferguson retired there have been several talented attacking players whose abilities seemed to nosedive after moving to Old Trafford. A string of forwards have looked like completely different players to the ones United thought they were signing and those that have moved on look reborn once they leave. Although the lack of a regular defence seems to be the biggest problem on Mourinho's plate it is a huge concern that forwards look so much better once they leave the club.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp suggested that creative players won't want to sign for the club, particularly if Mourinho remains in charge. Seemingly starved of freedom, perhaps it is true that even the likes of Messi would have problems in playing to the best of their ability.
Another part of Scholes' criticism is that United are making all the mistakes rivals Liverpool and Manchester City used to off the pitch. They are now favourites in the title race while United lag behind and the days of regular manager changes and unsuccessful transfers now seem a long way off.
When United were winning Premier League titles Liverpool and City were going back to the drawing board, never quite managing to get a cohesive plan together where the manager and players clicked properly. Now they are top of the table and United are going through managers and players seemingly without finding the right ones.
If Mourinho is gone by the end of the season they will have gone six seasons without finding a solution, having spend hundreds of millions for a squad where too many players need selling or are backup options. How many more will they need before they start to get it right?
United's next game is against Chelsea and the early kick off resumes the Premier League fixtures after the international break. It is a chance to see whether the comeback result against Newcastle United was a fluke or whether Mourinho has turned a corner with the club. Stamford Bridge has rarely been a place the Red Devils have enjoyed going to and they will want to avoid further misery.
If they can let their attackers shine as they did against Newcastle then there is a chance for Mourinho's team to get something from the game. Ultimately when the options for the first team are not clear it become a case of picking players the opposition don't want to face. Chelsea will be happy to welcome a ponderous and confused United side to Stamford Bridge.