Manchester United have lost their last match against West Ham at the London Stadium, in an unconvincing performance which was decided by a David De Gea mistake. But that 1-0 loss was the second in a row, after the same result happened against Brighton seven days prior, also at an away stadium.
Before that, there was the 2-2 draw in London against Tottenham Hotspur after having a two-goal lead, meaning United are left on mere two away Premier League wins in 2023. This also means they have won just one point away from home against the top nine Premier League teams, showing just how easy they are to break down when they are not playing at Old Trafford.
But why is it that Manchester United are so poor when they play away from home? This season, they won just seven out of 18 matches when playing away and the likes of Brighton and Newcastle are doing better than them. Last season, things were even worse when United finished ninth in the away matches only standings, with 23 points from 19 matches, minus 10 goal-difference and behind the likes of Brighton, Wolves and West Ham.
Clearly, the standings with away matches only are not the official standings, but they do tell us that United have been poor when not playing at Old Trafford. And considering United have won 12, drew three and lost just one match at home this season, it is clear that the biggest difference in number of points won in a season can be made with improvements in results away from home.
The last time United played a really good season in their away matches was in 2020-21, when they finished only behind Manchester City. That year, they won 12, drew seven times and lost none, showing that it is clearly possible to remain sturdy in away matches. But that season, United’s attack was a much better one and defence was probably a bit more solid.
United are now on mere 49 goals in 34 games, which is less than Fulham or Brentford scored. But in 2020-21, United scored 73 in 38 games and that gave the Devils the chance to win numerous matches even when they conceded. And that was the season when United had three players with double-digits in terms of goals scored – Bruno 18, Rashford 11, Cavani 10. This year, apart from Rashford’s 16 goals, no other player managed to get past six (Bruno Fernandes). The lack of goals is clear and the lightness of options in attack is at times painful. So much so that United failed to score in six of their 18 away matches in the league this season. In fact, five of those six matches came since the start of March – against Liverpool, Southampton, Newcastle, Brighton and West Ham.
And then there is the question of character, which cannot be measured with numbers. United’s confidence is not at the same level when playing away from home and it is certainly a problem Erik Ten Hag will have to look into during the summer. With United’s ability to make Old Trafford into a fort of sorts, it is in away games that the Devils can make big strides forward to make their climb up the Premier League standings a more realistic proposal.