For Manchester United supporters, it was not supposed to be like this.
Jose Mourinho arrived, saying he understood the Red Devils’ tradition of playing entertaining football and scoring goals, and a new, brighter time beckoned.
Paul Pogba was signed for a world-record fee £89.3million, together with the Bundesliga’s Player of the Year Henrikh Mkhitaryan and free-agent goal-machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Everything pointed to exciting football and those fans sent to sleep by Van Gaal woke up, sat back and waited for the goals to fly in.
Eight months later, they are still waiting .
United are enduring a goal drought verging on Biblical proportions, compared to the high standards of the club’s swashbuckling past under the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Despite an attack of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, and Marcus Rashford, the Old Trafford giants have just 43 Premier League goals in 29 games.
Compare that to Liverpool’s 66, Chelsea’s 62, Arsenal’s 61, Tottenham’s 60 and Everton’s 53.
Most galling for United is their conversion rate — a pitiful 11.9 per cent from 499 shots.
United are criminally wasteful — in terms of what statisticians Opta deem clear-cut chances, they have netted just 20 from 64.
That conversion rate of 31.25 is the worst in the Premier League.
At home, this has translated into just 21 goals from 16 games.
The tally of six wins is the club’s worst on their own patch in the league since 1973-74, when they were last relegated from the top flight.
Mourinho has sounded like a scratched record blaming opponents who park the bus and moaning about officials and opposition goalkeepers playing absolute blinders.
While there is some truth in all of that, even he admits United can’t hide behind excuses.
“We’ve had lots of unlucky decisions by the referees,” said Mourinho. “We’ve had lots of amazing performances from the goalkeepers. We’ve had lots of ultra-defensive teams coming here.
“But we need to score goals. We’ve had chances, and we need to score goals.
“I put myself in the position of the supporters and I say there’s not one match at home that does not have emotion, because we try until the end, but we don’t score enough goals.
“There are different stats and the stats are never the same, but the last one says we are the second team in the Premier League with most shots, but we are third-worst in the relation between the shots and the number of goals we score.”
Apart from Ibrahimovic with 16, the goal hauls for United’s attacking and creative players are woeful – Pogba has four, Mkhitaryan, Rashford and Martial three each and Rooney two.
Rashford hasn’t netted a league goal since September and looks a shadow of the player who exploded onto the United and England stages around this time last season.
Mourinho defended him — as managers must with young players — but there are growing doubts about his long-term Old Trafford career, with the Portuguese eyeing up Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.
“Marcus Rashford doesn’t score a goal since September, but the only thing he deserves is support, not criticism,” said the Portuguese.
“He works, he works, he works. He tries, he tries, he tries.”
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Mourinho knows the answer is for Rashford – and all his players – to be more clinical.
“How many goals have Rashford, Lingard, Mkhi, Pogba?” he said. “Paul has the record of hitting the post.
“How many goals from the attacking players? Not enough.
“There are some teams who create three chances, score two or three goals and it’s three points, thank you and goodbye.”