Scoring woes worry Van Gaal

Middlesbrough's Spanish goalkeeper Tomas Mejias is a happy man after saving Wayne Rooney's opening penalty in the shoot-out. Minutes later, he would be celebrating his team's victory after Michael Carrick and Ashley Young also failed to score.
Middlesbrough's Spanish goalkeeper Tomas Mejias is a happy man after saving Wayne Rooney's opening penalty in the shoot-out. Minutes later, he would be celebrating his team's victory after Michael Carrick and Ashley Young also failed to score.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Home drought continues as Rooney, Carrick and Young miss in shoot-out against Boro

LONDON • Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal admitted to concerns about his team's goal-scoring problems after they were bundled out of the League Cup on penalties by second-tier Middlesbrough at home.

The Premier League giants contrived to fail with three of their four attempts in Wednesday's 1-3 shoot-out loss in the fourth round, with England internationals Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young all unsuccessful.

That followed a goal-less tie, including extra time, which extended United's run without a goal in domestic football to 238 minutes following a drab stalemate with Manchester City in last weekend's Manchester derby.

The last time United recorded 0-0 draws in consecutive home games was in 2006.

And Old Trafford has not seen a goal for four hours and seven minutes, the last coming when Chris Smalling scored against Wolfsburg in the Champions League on Sept 30.

WE WON FAIR AND SQUARE

I told my players after the game that we were better than them - we were more confident on the pitch, we were fitter than them.

AITOR KARANKA, Middlesbrough manager, who looks forward to returning to the Premier League next season

Yes, of course," said van Gaal when asked if he was worried about the statistics.

"Because in football all that matters is a goal and we have played two matches 0-0.

"In my opinion, we could have scored also against Manchester City, but now, again, we did not score.

"It's a concern, but I do know also it can easily turn around in the next game."

That next game comes at Crystal Palace tomorrow, with van Gaal adamant that United's recent run of troubles in front of goal will have no adverse effect on his players.

Despite the desperate showing from the penalty spot against Middlesbrough - with only youngster Andreas Pereira successful in four attempts - he refused to criticise the players who fluffed their lines.

"It is more like the casino, red or black," said the Dutchman, after United's fourth successive shoot-out defeat and the second consecutive time he has seen his side knocked out of this competition by a lower-league team, following defeat by MK Dons last term.

"We trained yesterday on penalties, but it is like that. I cannot take them."

Van Gaal made nine changes to his starting line-up but still had £125.8 million (S$268.5 million) worth of talent in that XI.

He also had £196 million worth of insurance, with David de Gea, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Rooney, Ashley Young, Ander Herrera, and Bastian Schweinsteiger on the bench.

Rooney replaced James Wilson after the youngster limped off at half-time, only to miss United's first penalty.

Victorious manager Aitor Karanka, who masterminded Middlesbrough's shock FA Cup win at Manchester City in January, believes his men were better on the night.

"I told my players after the game that we were better than them - we were more confident on the pitch, we were fitter than them," he said.

They earned themselves a quarter-final home tie with Everton, but are looking to face Premier League opposition on a much more regular basis.

"To beat Man United, Man City... is some achievement," added the Spaniard, whose side are fourth in the Championship.

"My aim is to get the club to these kinds of stadiums every week."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'SCORING WOES WORRY VAN GAAL'. Print Edition | Subscribe