Manchester United started the Europa League campaign in the expected fashion, by beating Astana at Old Trafford, 1-0. Although the result was not as highest as most fans expected, a goal just 20 minutes before the final whistle was enough to seal the win and move on.
Today, we are talking about certain aspects of the game that were interesting, that we have got to interpret with some numbers.
It Should Have Been Easier
This was the main feeling after the match – Man United should have won with a bigger margin and it should not have been left late until Mason Greenwood scored the winner. And the expected goals confirm that. According to Infogol, one of the companies that offer public xG numbers, Man United’s expected goals were 2.79, while Astana ended their match at just 0.29.
With 2.50 xG more than their opponent, this match should have ended 2-0 or 3-0 and the eye test confirms that – the feeling is that would have been more realistic result. But Man United squandered some good chances, most of the through Marcus Rashford.
We said before the game we wanted to see the Englishman finally score, but did not happen and his three chances should have resulted in at least one goal. In fact, three of the best chances he had alone were worth 1.50 expected goals.
Diogo Dalot also had a good chance when United were 1-0 up, worth 0.39 xG, but he did not convert it either.
Chances Were Coming Through The Middle
Man United made 20 shots in this match, but 12 of those were assisted with a key pass. And a map of all the key passes shows nicely that almost all of Man United’s chance creation came from the central area of Astana’s half of the pitch. With Fred, Greenwood and Gomes as players gravitating towards that area of the pitch, it was obvious that a lot would come from there, but Astana’s low block also made it tougher to create chances on the flanks.
Congested Area Makes It Tough To Progress The Ball
Just how it was tough to play in a congested area that Astana’s defensive block created, another statistic shows. Man United attempted 26 dribbles collectively, but only completed 15 of them. Funnily enough, Phil Jones was the one that made three of them, although all around the centre circle, and when you look at the other players, only Gomes and Matic had two successful dribbles.
This also illustrates that there was not enough space for United’s players to create on their own and progress the ball into more dangerous areas.
Greenwood Not Afraid To Shoot
Mason Greenwood was the hero on the night, but a good trait he showed against Astana was that he was not afraid to shoot when he felt he needed to do so. He made four shots, neither of those coming from great chances – but that is absolutely fine.
His goal was a lovely finish and he was confident enough to try his shots from the distance. Against a team playing like Astana, that is to be expected and we hope his confidence will only continue growing.