Talking Numbers: Analysing Man United’s Draw At Bramall Lane

Manchester United failed to continue their good run of results on Sunday afternoon, as they drew 3-3 against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. The frantic match showed once again that there are numerous issues surrounding the squad and the manager in terms of consistent performing.

On Sunday, just after the match, we wrote about the things we learned from that match and now we are going to make a dive into numbers and underlying metrics and see what we can learn from them.

Expected Goals Tell Us Plenty

In a match that ends 3-3, expected goals can tell a lot, mostly because football is a low-scoring game and expected numbers do not get that high very often. That was the case on the day too, with both teams somewhere around the 1.5 xG mark. That is basically half of what these teams scored, suggesting that goals were flying in at a higher rate and that many goals were not really expected to happen considering the chances we had seen.

And that is about right. Sheffield United stood at 1.56 xG and Man United at 1.33. The Devils conceded way too many goals and whilst that could be said about the hosts as well, the Blades were the team that had a two-goal cushion and were expected to be more defensive-minded at that point.

That is what often happens, teams simply protecting their lead and Man United created two big chances in that timeframe and Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford took them.

Defensive Work Was Not Good

Man United conceding three goals against Sheffield United is bad enough, but other numbers suggest that not much good was happening in that department. Man United players made a total of NINE interceptions for the entire 90 minutes and made just ten successful tackles out of 18.

That is telling a lot about the style Man United used, basically standing far from their opponents and not hurrying themselves into getting proactive.

Pass It To Wan-Bissaka

Manchester United were quite an asymmetric side last year, with most of their matches ending up being tilted to the left. With Luke Shaw being far superior of the two on-the-pitch full-backs, Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial playing on the left flank and Paul Pogba always moving towards his left, the team was never really dangerous on the opposite side.

Against Sheffield United it was not that Man United were consistently dangerous on the right flank, but it was the case of going towards the right too often. Aaron Wan-Bissaka had over 100 touches of the ball and made 86 completed passes, topping Man United’s list in both categories. But that never brought a lot to United, as Wan-Bissaka played about half of his passes forwards and there were too many square passes to the right from the centre-backs and central midfielders.

That simply highlights the lack of a clear idea from Man United players and getting the ball out from the midfield area, where Fred and Andreas Pereira were failing to impose themselves against well-versed Norwood, Fleck and Lundstram.

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