Manchester United Defending In 2021-22: What Are Numbers Telling Us?

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Manchester United are currently on the international break, the final one for this year. After a really tough cycle of matches and some embarrassing results in the process during the October and November matches, Man United are now having the two-week rest ahead of the toughest part of the campaign.

Late November is going to merge with the hectic December and January, as the clubs will be playing more matches than clubs in any other country. The festive period is getting closer and the players should better be ready for the challenges ahead. Especially if we know that Man United are lucky to be sitting in sixth place in the standings, with just 17 points from 11 matches. Lucky, because they have just three points more than the 13th-placed Southampton and are ahead of Brighton solely on goal-difference.

We are not yet at the 1/3 mark of the Premier League campaign, but there has been around 1000 minutes of football for every team, so we should take a look at what Man United have done this season in terms of their numbers and metrics.

Corrosive Defence Is Hard To Ignore

If we take a look at Man United’s defence, we will see there are only six teams in the league worse than them. They have conceded 17 goals in these 11 matches, a whopping 1.55 per 90 minutes, annd the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace, Brentford, West Ham, Brighton, Wolves and Southampton have all done better so far. What is even worse is that Man United’s expected goals against – that is, the amount of goals the Devils were expected to concede based on the chances allowed – is 17.5! They are not even underperforming in this regard!

Man United have only kept a clean sheet in two of their 11 matches, but the worst part is that their opponents have the best quality of post-shot expected goals per shot in the league. Post-shot xG is measuring the likelihood of goalkeeper saving the shot based on how good that shot was and Man United are the worst in this regard, with incredible 0.37 PSxG, higher even than Norwich! The Devils are simply allowing too much to happen in front of their goal.

De Gea’s Problems Seen In Numbers

We are not here only to talk about David de Gea and his struggles to keep as many shots out of goal as possible, but some areas are interesting to look at. He has been known as the goalkeeper who likes staying in his six-yard box and a metric looking at crosses further proves that. The Spaniard failes to clear some of the danger from around his goal due to stopping only 4.8% of crosses that are coming into the box – four out of 83, to be precise. Only Hugo Lloris is worse with 2.9 per cent, but teams like Liverpool and Chelsea are almost in the double digits, while the league’s leaders are Brighton with 17%! Also, with United’s poor defence, De Gea is not behind them sweeping more often, as he had made just two defensive actions outside of penalty area. Ederson from Man City have made 15. Sure, this was to be expected based on De Gea’s and Man United’s style of play, but this is another nugget of information which nicely shows how Man United are failing to modernise their playing style.

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