According to FBref, Manchester United have taken 117 corners so far this season and scored precisely none of them. With that in mind, you’re probably looking at the headline and wondering what I’m actually talking about.
This has been a problem for United throughout the season, but when Ralf Rangnick came through the door, a quote in an interview he gave with Coaches Voice came to the fore.
He said: “30% of all goals are scored either on or straight after a set-piece, so, as coaches, you need to be alert to that, and as 30% of all goals are scored in this manner, I commit 30 % of my training to set-pieces.”
Now, as you’d expect, most fans looked at that quote and, in desperation to see Harry Maguire get his head on the end of a beautifully whipped-in cross, expected this would mean that Rangnick would improve the club’s fortunes in offensive positions .
There have been routines worked on at United, as you can see the variation in how the team approaches them, but none have provided a goal.
But what most fans probably failed to consider is the German is a pragmatic coach, whose RB Leipzig side was the most defensively solid team in the Bundesliga during his one season tenure in 2018/19. When describing set-piece situations, he could quite easily have meant in the defensive sense as well.
And the word ‘alert’ seems to lend more to that theory as well.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United conceded four goals from corners. It always looked shaky dealing with those situations, but since Rangnick has been appointed, United are yet to concede a goal from either a corner or a free-kick.
A significant contributing factor to this is the aerially dominant defenders that the United have at their disposal in Maguire and Raphael Varane. Still, you can quite clearly see that the team’s organization from dead-ball situations is much improved.
The only set piece that has seemingly caused United problems were the long throw-ins that Brentford employed. The goal the team conceded from the tactic was more due to a string of individual errors rather than a tactical failing.
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Last season United conceded nine goals from just corners, which was the joint fifth-most in the Premier League, so there was a definite need for improvement in this regard. If you can say nothing else positive about Rangnick’s interim tenure so far, he has made United look more defensively solid in the majority of situations.
117 corners without a goal is not good by any stretch of the imagination. Still, United have shown they can create chances without this, and while having that as a goal threat would be preferable, giving the opponent fewer opportunities to score is a lot more valuable.
Burnley have been known for their aerial threat in the past, so United’s Premier League fixture will provide an excellent test to see whether this continues to be the case.
When do you think Manchester United will score from a corner? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter and get involved in the discussion in the comment section below.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.