When Manchester United walked off the Old Trafford pitch last week at the end of the 0-1 defeat to Barcelona, the one telling statistic was the reds failing to register a single shot on target all game. For such an important game this was a worrying stat that has been plaguing United for some years now.
United have only scored one goal at home in this seasons Champions League campaign and that was a last minute Marouane Fellaini goal against Young Boys in the group stages.
The Reds drew a blank at home to a poor Valencia side and hardly troubled Massimiliano Allegri`s Juventus side losing 0-1. On their travels, United have fared much better with victories in Turin and Paris but the worry is that Old Trafford is no longer the fortress in European football that it used to be. United cannot keep relying on humongous away victories to get them out of trouble like they have been doing.Embed from Getty Images
After negotiating the group stages this year, United were dominated at home by Paris ST Germain and again struggled to cause the French side any problems.
Going back over the years, this trend of drawing blanks at Old Trafford has continued since the golden years from 2007 to 2011 when United went to three Champions League finals in four years. Big home wins over the likes of Celtic, Roma, AC Milan had Old Trafford rocking but United supporters have been fed on a goal drought since.
During the 2017-18 season, Manchester United faced Basel, Benfica, CSKA Moscow. Although goals were scored, that was expected against poor opposition yet when the first knockout stage came around, the red devils whimpered out of the tournament with lacklustre performances in both legs of the tie against Seville, finally losing 1-2 on aggregate.Embed from Getty Images
Despite drawing 0-0 in the first leg away in Spain, United never upped the tempo and were ultra defensive at home only attacking when the Spaniards scored late on in the second half.
During the quarter final home game against Barcelona, United played well up to the Catalans 18 yard box then it all came to nothing with no cutting edge. A combination of poor service to Romelu Lukaku and rash shooting from Marcus Rashford meant it was no surprise that United failed to register a shot on target.
Looking back over the last few seasons, United have struggled to set the world a light in Europe at Old Trafford. In the 2015-16 campaign, United only scored 3 goals in 3 home games against Wolfsburg, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow, none of whom are considered European giants. That season, United dropped into the Europa League and despite a 5 goal haul at home to FC Midtyjland, a lack of goals meant United went out to Liverpool.
Realistically you have to go back to 2013 when United went toe to toe with a European giant in Real Madrid and were unlucky to exit the tournament when a poor referee call in sending off Nani changed the game. In that game, United really threatened Madrid and caused them all sorts of problems. A game which the then Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho claimed that was the loudest he had ever heard Old Trafford sound.Embed from Getty Images
The previous season in 2012-13, another poor European campaign resulted in United finishing 3rd and dropping into the Europa League. Once again, the goals at home dried up against Benfica, Basel and Galati from Romania, all sides who should be put to the sword especially at Old Trafford.
Even in 2011, when United reached the Champions League final at Wembley ultimately losing 1-3 to Barcelona, United only managed 2 home goals in the group stage in 3 games against Rangers, Valencia and Bursaspor. United improved in the knockout stages scoring 2 against Marseille and Chelsea and putting 4 goals past Schalke in the semi final.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a conundrum to work out how to get United scoring in Europe at Old Trafford something several other recent United managers have struggled to do. Otherwise, it is unlikely United will add to their 3 European Cups anytime soon.