Man Utd should forget Sancho - they need a striker like Kane or Haaland, says McClaren

By Sports Desk August 18, 2020

Manchester United should target a striker such as Harry Kane or Erling Haaland instead of pursuing Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, former assistant manager Steve McClaren says.

The Red Devils have been linked with England winger Sancho for many months, but Dortmund have made it clear they will not sell him before next season.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is nonetheless keen to add some more quality to his squad, having seen their season ended in disappointment with a 2-1 Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla - their third defeat in the last four of a cup competition in 2019-20.

United mustered 20 shots against the LaLiga side but could only score through a Bruno Fernandes penalty, while errors at the back allowed Suso and Luuk de Jong to send Julen Lopetegui's men through.

It was a similar story in the quarter-finals against Copenhagen, when another Fernandes spot-kick proved decisive. Across the two matches, United attempted 46 shots, 21 of which were on target, but failed to score from open play.

Former England boss McClaren, who became assistant to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford ahead of the treble-winning season of 1999, thinks a centre-forward - and stronger defence - could make the difference to the current side's progress.

"They had so many chances," he told talkSPORT. "I was watching the game thinking, if Robin van Persie was there, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke… you name the number nines Manchester United have had throughout the years, they would have put at least one of those chances away.

"That's what wins big games, and that's what Manchester United have failed to do in the three semi-finals: win the big games by not taking their chances and defensive errors at the other end.

"Manchester United are out of the Europa League because they failed to score in one box and failed to defend in the other.

"The solution is not as simple as, 'let's get in a number nine and all our worries are over'; they also need some defenders because Manchester United should not have conceded a goal against Sevilla. They were simple errors.

"They've got a good defender in [Harry] Maguire, and I think they need another centre-half and a good number nine and work very, very hard defensively.

“The front four are so quick, they're so exciting and they cause so many problems, and [Anthony] Martial is a fantastic player, but in the big games when it really matters, he never looks like a true goalscorer. They need class in that position.

"The manager is helpless if the club don't back him and go for the likes of [Erling] Haaland. What a perfect fit he would have been. I've seen him for Dortmund and he's an incredible player at 20. Imagine him in the Man United team, that would be spot on.

"I've seen Jadon Sancho play a lot for Dortmund and he's very, very exciting, but he's a little bit like Martial, Rashford and Greenwood and I wonder, do they really need that?

"He's not a number nine, and Martial, [Marcus] Rashford and [Mason] Greenwood aren't number nines either. You've got to get a fox in the box, a goalscorer and number nine and they've got to find one quick.

"Yes, Sancho would improve the squad, but to win big games and to win cups, you need a number nine and you need two damn good centre-backs.

"Haaland would have been perfect: a young talented striker, a number nine who can play under pressure – they're difficult to find. Harry Kane, will they get him out of Tottenham? I doubt it very much, but they need someone of that ilk."

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    When Frank Lampard was questioned over Chelsea's poor defensive record in his tenure as manager, he suggested his goalkeepers were to blame.

    Ahead of Tuesday's home game against Sevilla, which will kick off the Blues' Champions League campaign, it was put to Lampard that his side were conceding enough goals for him to rank him among the club's worst bosses ever in that category.

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    As Lampard referenced with recruitment, Chelsea hope the signing of Edouard Mendy for around £22million from Rennes can solve their goalkeeping issues.

    But is the statistic he cites correct and to what extent can the other keepers, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero, be blamed for the club's woeful defensive record? We have used Opta data to find out...

    CHELSEA RANK HIGHLY IN PREVENTING SHOTS

    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

    Of the 17 sides who played in the Premier League last year and this year, that puts Chelsea in the bottom half (11th of 17).

    The best two records, by comparison, are held by the two Manchester clubs, with City (61 in 65) and United (63 in 67) both averaging 0.94 goals conceded per game. West Ham are the worst, with 1.58 (79 in 50 matches).

    But, as Lampard suggests, there is a significant difference when it comes to shots faced.

    Taking all competitions into account, the Blues have faced 590 shots across their 62 games, an average of 9.52 per game.

    That ranks third of the 17 teams, only narrowly behind Manchester City (7.34 shots per game) and Liverpool (9.46), with Leicester City (9.76) the only other team facing less than 10.

    Of the shots Chelsea have faced, 215 have been on target, an average of 3.47 per game which ranks fifth of 17. 

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    However, 15 per cent (89) of opposing teams' shots have resulted in a conceded goal and by that metric, Chelsea are worst of all 17 teams.

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    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

    For context, the next worst of those who played at least 25 matches in that time period, were England duo Nick Pope (minus 4.31) and Jordan Pickford (minus 4.17).

    Caballero also has a negative differential (minus 3.73), conceding nine Premier League goals from his six matches when his expected figure was 5.27.

    The best goalkeeping performance in that time has come from Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris (plus 9.87 goals prevented), closely followed by Martin Dubravka (plus 8.57), Dean Henderson (plus 8.35) and Vicente Guaita (plus 7.97) – with those four ranking well clear of the rest.

    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

    The poor goalkeeping is highlighted further when looking at Chelsea and their big six rivals.

    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

    By contrast, Arsenal (62.73) and Tottenham (62.72) rank more poorly.

    However, the actual figures show Chelsea (63) conceded the most of the big six, more than Arsenal (54) and Spurs (55), who were boosted by the positive differentials and fine performances of Bernd Leno, Emiliano Martinez and Lloris.

    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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