What is wrong with Maritzburg United?

2013-12-11 00:00

I’M no rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take one to figure out what is going wrong at Maritzburg United, and at most clubs around the country.

In football, strikers are generally given the responsibility of sticking the ball into the back of the net. Guys like Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez and Romelu Lukaku do that well. In South Africa we’ve had the likes of the late Lesley Manyathela and Kerryn Jordan, Shaun Bartlett and a 21-year-old Zambian that used to go by the name of Collins Mbesuma.

But strikers today — apart from guys like Bernard Parker, Cuthbert Malajila, Edward Manqele and, the evergreen grandfather of South African football, Siyabonga Nomvethe — tend to find it hard to stick it in.

Having watched United play at Harry Gwala and one game at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, I have been impressed with how they have been going about their business, particularly under new coach Clinton Larsen.

I also recall a game when United took on Mpumalanga Black Aces. They were 2-0 up within six minutes, and were so attacking in the first half, they should have been 3 or 4-0 up. Come the second half, and with the journos in the press box thinking that they would continue in much of the same vein, then coach Ernst Middendorp brought out the bus and duly parked it in front of Shu-Aib Walters’ goal.

Not quite the football that chairperson Farook Kadodia likes. Middendorp was hauled in front of a meeting with the board and had to explain his tactics, which Kadodia blamed for the empty seats.

In came Larsen. Immediately, he changed things. The club seemed to be more attacking. They seemed to be created more chances. But, there was one thing that was missing, one thing that wins football games.

Goals, goals, goals.

You can play the most attractive of games, pull the most spectacular tricks, create the most opportunistic of chances, but, without goals, all of that means nothing.

Last season the club’s Zimbabwean Malajila was absolutely lethal. It was no secret that one of the bigger clubs was going to come in for him, and United would have to find a replacement. They got Yakubu Mohammed from Ghana.

Is Yakubu the man to fill Malajila’s giant boots? Sadly, I do not think so. Maybe it’s the giant shadow of Malajila that covers Harry Gwala that is the problem. Maybe a lot is being placed on young Yakubu’s shoulders. Maybe he needs time to get used to the South African game.

But, in that time, the club is suffering. The season has almost reached the halfway mark and the striker last found the back of the net on the opening day of the season, in August.

And, if you thought Yakubu’s grand total of one goal in three months is shocking, then you will be shocked by Terrance Mandaza’s.

Mandaza, a tall striker who is built like an ox, and who has found himself with a number of opportunities in front of goal this season, has yet to break his duck. His form in front of goal was most evident when they lost 2-1 to Platinum Stars. In that game, Mandaza could have scored two, three or maybe even four. But, he missed everything. He missed every chance he had with the scores deadlocked at 1-1. He couldn’t find a goal.

If Maritzburg United are to get out of this rut they are in, they will have to go into the market when the transfer window opens in January and find a striker. A proven striker who can score one or two goals and who does not miss sitters.

With Katlego Mphela seemingly on the way out of Mamelodi Sundowns, I wonder how much it would take to bring him to Pietermaritzburg?

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