United’s performance against Barnsley was typical of many this season. Plenty of possession, loads of crosses, good passing, missed chances, not enough men in the box, and a decisive slip at the back.
And just most of the season, the performance was reasonable, but not quite good enough. The potential to produce more and better is clearly there, it’s just taking a long time to come out.
United have scored 22 league goals this season, which is an acceptable total, if not a great one. The problem is that four of those 22 have come in the first half of matches - Bristol City and Yeovil at home, Peterborough and Preston away. As was shown against Barnsley, United can’t bank on staging last-ditch comebacks every time.
United need to start games with a lot more purpose (but unusually, against Barnsley, they did start well but faded), and keep it going. How can Cloughie ensures that happens? As I’ve mentioned before, part of the problem is that he wants both Baxter and Scougall in his team, meaning Baxter plays up front, when he’d be more useful behind the main striker. But that’s where Scougall plays.
Another part of the problem is that Cloughie is not certain about his other strikers. Marc McNulty comes in for as much criticism as praise, whilst Michael Higdon was first not fit enough, then suspended, and now injured, just when he was showing signs of progress. And Chris Porter is a forgotten man.
But Porter might be one of Cloughie’s trump cards. Along with McGinn, Collins and Dimaio, United’s deep squad could be telling as the season wears on. Quite possibly, but if United could up their game in the meantime it would help.