Talking Numbers: A Closer Look At Man United’s Liverpool Disaster

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Manchester United’s humiliation is still the subject number one in English football. The Red Devils still have their cheeks red, after a horrific 5-0 loss to Liverpool at Old Trafford, a scoreline that we had never seen in this historic clash, in that historic stadium.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team was well beaten and embarrassed, they showed no spine to fight when they were in a really tough situation and their character was going from bad to worse, as it was mostly Liverpool’s wish not to keep going too hard in the latter stages of the match. But we have already mentioned what we learned from this disaster, now it is time to have a closer look at numbers and see what can also be the reasons for making United look so pathetic on Sunday.

Expected Goals

In matches like these, when one team destroys the other and one of the teams ultimately stops playing as they give up any chances of actually winning, the expected goals rarely show us something close to the final scoreline. That is why, we could see United ending up with 1.6 expected goals in a match where they had a four-goal deficit at half-time and played with 10 men for the last half hour. However, basically half of that number came from Edinson Cavani’s late chance when the match was long gone. The other decent opportunity was Ronaldo’s saved shot in the final minutes of the first half, before Mohamed Salah scored Liverpool’s fourth goal.

But it is interesting to also see Liverpool ending the match with 3.8 expected goals, per FBRef. That might seem pretty lower than the five they scored, but in these terms, 3.8 xG is outrageously bad for Man United. They allowed 19 shots, eight of which went on target, but even worse, they allowed 12 of them from the inside of the box or just on its edge.

Non-Existent Pressing

This is where things get ‘interesting’. Many people have spoken during and after the match about Man United’s non-existent pressing, but it is especially painful to see how non-existent it was when taking a look at solid numbers. Man United had 13 players on the pitch, excluding De Gea, and they managed to make 72 pressures on opposition for 90 minutes. Yes, they had Pogba sent off after 60 minutes, but Pogba replaced Mason Greenwood, who did not make a single pressure in those opening 45 minutes. Man United’s pressing was even worse from technical point of view, seeing how broken and structureless it was. A quick look at Liverpool shows 134 pressures from Jurgen Klopp’s side…

Firmino And Jota Make United Uncomfortable

It was Mohamed Salah who tortured Man United, scoring a hat-trick and adding an assist to his name, but we should not forget just how much tactically adjustable Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota managed to make Man United uncomfortable. The Brazilian and the Portuguese forward made the most pressures on Man United’s back four, a total of 47 pressures. But it was not only that. Jota and Furmino managed to progressively carry the ball often, 29 and 27 times respectively, whilst finding pockets of space, especially the latter. Firmino made three successful dribbles from four attempts and the two of them attempted five shots, with Jota making one goal and assisting another one. They were a handful for Man United’s chaotic defence.

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