Talking Numbers: A Deeper Dive Into Watford Loss

Manchester United keep underperforming whenever they meet a side they are clear favourites against. It is such a precise pattern that it is actually striking how terrible the performances are against such sides. Early into the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to talk about the lack of luck, but now he can only say that his team did not deserve to get anything from the match.

And that is the reality no one is even disputing. Things are so clear right now. Against Watford at Vicarage Road showed yet again all the frailties of this team and the manager. Lack of clear style of play against sides that are supposed to be weaker than Man United – only against those sides, since United have a very clear way of playing  when being underdogs – hurt them yet again, with Solskjaer unable to instill any coherent structure or a go-to plan.

Yesterday, we spoke about certain things we learned from the match, but now let’s focus on some other things through the numbers.

About Expected Goals

As usual, we are taking the look into expected numbers and they are offering us an interesting point of view. Purely looking at numbers, this was a close match with Watford having 1.59 xG and Man United 1.53 xG. But simple numbers are not offering us a true context, so a closer look is needed.

The clear thing when looking at when which chances happened, it is obvious that Watford’s xG grew the most after their second goal, i.e. Deeney’s penalty. But the biggest part of United’s 1.53 xG came in the last ten minutes of the match. That makes sense from Watford’s point of view – they were defending the lead and Solskjaer’s side had to go all in trying to score the goal.

Therefore, simple xG numbers are deceptive this time around.

Rashford’s Inefficiency Had To Happen

Marcus Rashford is currently in the form of his life. He has been scoring goals for more than a month whenever he wanted against all types of sides. But against Watford his hot streak ended with Rashford not doing as much as it was expected.

That is normal, in some ways, and this should not be regarded as some kind of a critique or something like that. Rashford cannot be at such a high level at every single game and even if he could, he would still have games in which he would not directly contribute in goals.

Against Watford, he made just one successful dribble from six attempts, he did not create any of the good chances and he even failed to convert a good opportunity late into the match. But that is normal and United must realise they cannot rely only on Rashford having a great game.

Deulofeu Does His Work

Gerard Deulofeu was probably Watford’s best player on the night and he tried to be very active, but not only going forwards, but also doing his defensive work. He completed SEVEN dribbles from 11 attempts, but he also made three interceptions and 4/8 successful tackles. If he could start performing like that more often, Watford will have a lot of use of him.

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