Talking Numbers: About That Man United Night In Belgium

Here are the four things we also want to discuss after Man United’s 1-1 draw against Club Brugge on Thursday night.

Expected Goals Show Usual Story

When we talk about expected goals, we often say how Man United are not creating much high quality chances, that opponents often have a greater expected goals total and that just making a bunch of shots from distance is not akin to a real gameplan. And all of the above happened in Belgium. Manchester United made 16 shots, but they still managed to have a smaller xG by almost a third of a goal, as Club Brugge ‘won’ this battle 1.42 to 1.14. That is not a drastic difference, but it goes to show how low value chances United are trying to convert into goals.

Average shot was worth 0.07 xG, an astonishingly low number, as the Devils had a lot of shots come from distance, when it is more about trying to get lucky than actually having a proper plan.

Matic Does Well In Midfield

In the midst of all of these mistakes and poor planning, Nemanja Matic once again had a good game. He was not particularly useful going forwards, but that is not something we have been expecting of him to be his important role. Instead, defensively he offered quite a lot. Matic succeeded in four out of his six attempted tackles, he made two interceptions and two clearances each, and he also won three aerial duels, no other player on the pitch had more than him.

It was not a spectacular performance by any means, but Matic offered some kind of solidity in the middle of the park and next weekend he could be paired with Scott McTominay in the league, if the Scot returns to action as some are suggesting he might.

Fernandes’ Proactivity Evident

Bruno Fernandes has been one of the players Man United fans have been talking a lot after this match, which would not be such a surprise if he had not been a substitute after 81 minutes. But in those 10+ minutes he was playing, he did try his best to turn things around.

Maybe the Portuguese was not the most efficient, but such moves were necessary – high risk, high reward. In the end, he finished the game with four shots, no other player in the whole match had more than him. Sure, three of those were blocked and did not yield much, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side was badly in need of someone trying to actually make things happen. Fernandes did just that, even though the score did not change.

Dennis Troubles Double Left-Back Combo

Man United started in a 3-4-2-1 formation, which was supposed to offer more defensive solidity and narrow the midfield as much as possible. But it was interesting to see both Luke Shaw as the left centre-back and Brandon Williams as the left wing-back actually both starting. They did not have the best game defending-wise, as Emmanuel Dennis, who scored Brugge’s only goal, had a really good night against them. He completed three dribbles in their area of the pitch and more importantly, created three chances from that flank.

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