Louis van Gaal admits that a recent lack of goals for Manchester United is a “concern”, but that his players simply need a bit of “luck”.
United followed Arsenal and Chelsea in being eliminated in the last 16 of the Capital One Cup as Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young all missed from 12 yards after a goalless 120 minutes when the hosts proved equally wasteful.
Marouane Fellaini, on two occasions, and substitute Anthony Martial missed gilt-edged chances in front of goal in extra time and Van Gaal admitted his side’s profligacy cost them before the “casino” of the shoot-out.
“When you are not finishing the chances – and they were very easy chances in front of the goal or in front of the goalkeeper – then it is very difficult to win a game because the goals are counting, not the chances,” the Dutchman said.
“You can say it is unlucky but that I have said already after the match against (Manchester) City also because that was also 0-0. You have to force the luck also, we didn’t do that because we didn’t score. That’s why I’m disappointed.
“My players have given everything and that’s why I am also proud of them because until the end they have done it. Penalties is a casino – you never know.”
Six sides have scored more goals in the Premier League so far this season than United, while Rooney is their top goalscorer in all competitions with six strikes in 15 games.
England captain Rooney and Young both saw their penalties saved by Boro goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, while Carrick blazed over in between with only David Nugent not converting for the visitors.
However, Van Gaal absolved his trio of any blame, preferring to instead reflect on Mejias’ successful rolls of the dice.
“In the goal was a goalkeeper; and he was very quick and he gambled also,” Van Gaal added.
“He’s 195 centimetres. That is not easy to do when the goalkeeper is gambling for the right corner.
“You need players who look at the goalkeeper and put it in the other (corner)…very early he goes away. It is already 120 minutes you have played so you are not so sharp any more. These things happen.”
While United could have put the tie to bid in extra time they were also fortunate to not be ousted in 90 minutes, with Daley Blind almost scoring two own-goals, one ruled out by an offside flag against Kike and the other dropping just past Sergio Romero’s post after the goalkeeper had let the ball slip past him.
At the other end, James Wilson offered little before being withdrawn at half-time due to injury and not even the presence of Rooney, often operating in a deep midfield role, and Martial from the bench could provide a goal following Sunday’s Manchester derby stalemate in the same stadium.
When asked if the lack of goals was a concern, Van Gaal replied: “Yes, of course. Football – what only matters is a goal.
“We have played two matches – 0-0. In my opinion we could have scored against Manchester City now, again, that’s the score.
“It is a concern but I do know also that it can easily turn around in the next game.”