Talking Numbers: A Deeper Dive Into Man United’s Wolves Loss

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Manchester United’s start to the 2022 has not been the way many have expected. The first match of the new year brought sixth Premier League loss this season, as Wolverhampton Wanderers defeated Ralf Rangnick’s side 1-0 at Old Trafford. It was a much that fully showed Man United have still not improved under the German manager, despite the changes in system he has been trying to impose. It is still early into his short interim managerial role, but Man United have shown all the same signs of weaknesses that were on display during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s days.

Wolves won thanks to a late Joao Moutinho strike from the edge of the box, punishing United for their meek performance. We spoke yesterday about all the things we learned from the match, but here are some new details to talk about through the prism of numbers.

Expected Goals

It could be said that Man United have made better chances in terms of the expected goals. After the full 90 minutes, Man United were slightly better than Wolves, with 0.8 xG to the visitors’ 0.7 expected goals. That difference is bigger if we take into account that United have made just nine shots, compared to Wolves’ 19. But that is where the problem lays. Wolves were maybe not creating the best quality of chances, but they were constantly dangerous and trying to make the most out of United’s poor performance. In the end, they were rewarded with a nice shot from Moutinho late on. Add to that that United have made just two shots on target and you get the picture.

Greenwood Makes Moves But Nothing Comes Of Them

It was interesting to see Man United once again in a 4-2-2-2 system, simply for hoping to see some new things from United, but that is where the interesting things stopped. United played too narrow in all areas but the defence and that allowed Wolves a lot of space to attack on the flanks. That is also why even with Mason Greenwood making some nice moves, he did not manage to do much, stifled by the more central position he had to take up. He made six successful dribbles from eight attempts in just 59 minutes on the pitch, but still failed to bring more to the table once those dribbles were completed.

United Still Do Not Press Much

Man United simply had too many problems in this match. They played a very narrow formation which allowed Wolves to be proactive and dangerous, negating some of the qualities Sancho and Greenwood can make when they are sitting wider and cutting inside. But also, United’s lack of pressing was once again obvious. Many have expected Rangnick to make this team press far more than they did, but with Cristiano Ronaldo up front and the rest of attackers being disoriented and disorganised in their moves, that pressing was not there very often and even when it was, it was easy for Wolves to beat it. It is a part of the game that needs far more sophistication and practice, but so far, United do not seem to be progressing in it.

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