Talking Numbers: Looking Closely At Man United’s Alkmaar Trip

Manchester United’s poor results continue. The fans are not happy that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is having issues winning matches even when they are clear favourites and that was the case against AZ Alkmaar again. The 0-0 draw was frustrating and truly appalling in terms of performance as well.

Truth to be told, this team was far from the best XI Solskjaer could usually put out when everyone is healthy, but nevertheless, nothing suggested in the past six months that this team will actually rapidly grow.

To Score, You Have To Create

Against AZ, we have seen the usual problems we point out after every game. Man United are having issues creating chances and only against Chelsea that was not the case. And to score you have to create. That did not really happen against Alkmaar, as expected goals suggest that a 0-0 draw was probably the most realistic result. Man United had 0.71 xG, while the Dutch side was at almost the same level – 0.64.

It only further proves how drab that match was and that nothing worth noting – except that one Mason Greenwood shot – has happened. Man United’s zero shots on target confirm that.

Daniel James Experiment Did Not Work

Solskjaer likes experimenting with his forward line, that is something that we have seen on several occasions so far this season. He tried playing with Martial and Rashford up front, he tried with Andreas Pereira on the right flank, with Jesse Lingard playing alongside as a number 10 alongside other pacey-not-creative forwards, but this time he tried something else.

With Rashford and Martial sidelined, he tinkered with Daniel James starting as the centre-froward in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Let’s just say that did not work out.

After 20 minutes, he moved James to the flank and put Mason Greenwood up front. He realized that James was cut off from the rest of the team, as he made just seven touches with the ball in those 20 minutes. No other player had less touches than him in that timeframe, including both goalkeepers.

Solskjaer realized that was not going to work and he put Greenwood – who actually is a striker and not a right-winger where he was initially put – in James’ place. Greenwood did get that one chance, but in the end, it did not bring a result.

Matic-Fred Partnership Offers Nothing Going Forwards

Nemanja Matic and Fred started the match in central midfield, as the two pivots in front of the back four. Overall, they did just about enough, in order to help the backline from conceding a goal, but there were other things that stood out in the game of both the Serbian and Brazilian midfielder.

Not that it was a huge surprise, but expectations were there to at least try and do something different against a side like AZ, that will give you space if you do the right things.

Obviously the two of them were mostly expected to do the defensive work, but it was expected for at least one of them to try and set the tempo further up the pitch and maybe even create a chance for their teammates. That did not happen.

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