Five issues facing Manchester United after Burnley draw
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 30/10/16 11:27am
From misfiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic to injuries and suspensions, we look at the issues facing Manchester United after their goalless draw with Burnley at Old Trafford.
United were totally dominant against Sean Dyche's side but missed a host of chances, and their misery was compounded when Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands and Ander Herrera was red carded.
The Red Devils are now eight points off the top of the table having only won one of their last six Premier League games. Here, we look at some of the areas for concern…
After scoring four goals in his first four appearances for Manchester United, Zlatan Ibrahimovic now has one in his last nine. The statistics do not make pretty reading for the big Swede, who failed to find the net against Burnley despite attempting 12 shots on goal - the most by any player in a single Premier League game since 2011.
Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton played his part with some fine saves, but Ibrahimovic's profligacy is a growing concern. The 35-year-old has missed more clear-cut chances (eight) than any other Premier League player this season, with the latest being his close-range miscue from Paul Pogba's 89th-minute cross at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Manchester United have missed more clear-cut chances than any other Premier League team (16), and their shot conversion rate (10.2 per cent) is the third-lowest in the division.
"Ibrahimovic is a good finisher who has scored goals all over the world," said Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville. "He will not believe that he has not scored in that match." The recent run is certainly out of character. This is the first time Ibrahimovic has gone six league games without scoring since December 2007 with Inter Milan.
It's a headache for Mourinho, but Ibrahimovic should not be held solely responsible for United's struggles in front of goal. Wayne Rooney, Pogba and Juan Mata all spurned chances against Burnley, and United's shot conversion rate of 10.2 per cent is the third-worst in the Premier League this season. Confidence is low across the whole team, and it's showing.
Mourinho in trouble?
Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure recently, and his anger boiled over when United were denied a penalty for an apparent trip on Matteo Darmian in the first half. The 53-year-old, who is already facing a misconduct charge for his comments about referee Anthony Taylor before the Liverpool game, was sent to the stands by Mark Clattenburg after reacting furiously to the decision.
He took a seat in the stands beside the home dugout at the start of the second half, but fourth official Kevin Friend soon moved him to the directors' box, where he passed written notes to the bench via a member of his coaching staff.
Mourinho now faces the threat of a touchline ban for United's upcoming games. He did not fulfil media duties at Old Trafford after the game, but his assistant Rui Faria appeared to mock Clattenburg, saying: "I think the referee did fantastic work. I won't say more than this. It is not important what Jose says, what is important is what the referee writes in his report."
Mourinho's mood is unlikely to have been helped by Herrera's sending off. The Spaniard received his first booking for a late tackle on Dean Marney in the first half, and he was given his marching orders when he clattered into the Burnley midfielder for a second time after the break.
Herrera will have to sit out United's trip to Swansea next Sunday, and on recent evidence that's a big blow. He has been one of their best players in the last few weeks, producing a string of impressive displays in an unfamiliar holding role. His defensive contribution has freed up Pogba, and he averages more passes per game than any other United player.
Mourinho has struggled to find the right balance in central midfield this season, but Herrera's impressive showings had gone some way to solving the problem. United can't afford to drop more points at the Liberty Stadium, but now Mourinho will have to shuffle his midfield once again.
In the space of a week, Mourinho has lost three-quarters of his first-choice back four to injury. Eric Bailly is perhaps the biggest miss. The Ivorian has impressed since his arrival from Villarreal, and he is facing two months out after damaging knee ligaments in the 4-0 thrashing by Chelsea.
Bailly's centre-back partner Chris Smalling is also sidelined after Mourinho revealed he played with an injury against Chelsea, and that duo have been joined in the treatment room by Antonio Valencia. The right-back started every one of United's Premier League games before the Burnley draw, but he faces a lengthy spell out as he undergoes surgery on a fractured arm.
"They were the three players that start almost every match in the Premier League and now we lose all three in the same period," said Mourinho. The United boss is reliant on squad players such as Marcos Rojo and Darmian in the meantime. United face Arsenal, West Ham and Everton in the weeks ahead. His makeshift defence will be sternly tested.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan's plight is another source of frustration. His arrival was heralded as one of the signings of the summer after he scored 23 goals and claimed 20 assists in his final season with Borussia Dortmund, but he has scarcely featured under Mourinho and he was not even on the bench against Burnley.
Mourinho confirmed Mkhitaryan is not carrying an injury before the game, saying he has been overlooked because he is not yet ready for the rigours of English football. The United boss insists he needs time to adapt, but his absence is not what United expected when they parted with £26.3m to bring him to Old Trafford in the summer.
Mkhitaryan has not even been afforded chances in the EFL Cup, but with injuries and suspensions piling up and United struggling to find the net, Mourinho might be forced to throw him into the action in the weeks ahead. The sooner they can get him up to speed, the better.