Erik ten Hag spent the early weeks of the season issuing votes of confidence in Marcus Rashford and Rasmus Hojlund. The pair's potential has not been undersold -- and Rashford's 30 goals last season only pad his résumé -- but Manchester United's lackluster offensive output perhaps left some thinking it was time for a change. The manager, though, stuck to his preferences and for the first time all season, and it seems like things are finally going his way.
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The pair settled into their new partnership nicely on Tuesday, with Rashford assisting both of Hojlund's goals in the team's Galatasaray. Hojlund took just two shots on target and over-performed his expected goals tally of 0.72, and is emerging as one of the heroes of United's European campaign so far after scoring in the team's 4-3 loss at Bayern Munich on Matchday 1.encounter with
Rashford may not have added to his goal tally, but his performance might be the revelation of United's season so far. The attacker's goalscoring stats might be down from the last campaign, but he is emerging as an impactful playmaker and is in some of the best assisting form of his career. That was very much the case against Galatasaray with his contributions on the goals as well as his overall performance -- he created two chances and posted an expected assists tally of 0.67, outdoing his average in league play of 1.33 chances per game and 0.19 expected assists per 90.
It was arguably United's best attacking performance of the season. There was just one problem -- the team still ended up losing 3-2 to Galatasaray.
While Rashford and Hojlund impressed up top, United's defensive effort delivered completely contrasting results. The defensively liable side conceded at least three goals for the fourth time in a season that's only nine games old but also allowed Galatasaray into the game rather than restricting a team with plenty of offensive firepower. The two sides played a fairly even game -- United slightly led in possession with 55.3% of the ball, took 16 shots to Galatasaray's 15 and had five shots on goal to the visitors' four. Despite United's slight edge, it was Galtasaray who won the expected goals battle, 2.68 to 2.08.
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United are not defensively ineffective, though. They continue to make sloppy and costly mistakes, which was evident when Casemiro picked up a second yellow card in the 77th minute and conceded a penalty. The hosts were lucky that Mauro Icardi eventually missed the spot-kick, but the forward made up for it four minutes later with the game-winning goal.
In some ways, United's poor start to the season was chalked down to an offensive rough patch that they would likely overcome because of the inherent quality of the squad. It is becoming increasingly apparent, though, that even when ten Hag's offense is operating exactly as he would like it to, United's problems are much bigger than a dry spell up top.