Manchester United started the 2023-24 Premier League season with a 1-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday night, but the three points they got at Old Trafford did not come in style.
Erik Ten Hag’s side was far from what the fans expected to see, often lacking cohesive plan, balance and ability to hurt the opposition. Still, Raphael Varane’s close range header was enough for them to scrape by and get their first win of the season. While we already what we learned from the match, it is now time for us to take a slightly closer look and inspect some of the underlying metrics from this affair.
The Expected Goals Story
As usual, we will start with the expected goals, where, according to the FBREF’s numbers from Statsbomb, Man United and Wolves both ended up on 2.2 expected goals from the shots they created on the night. During the match, it probably felt as if Wolves had more and better chance, thanks to the fact they outnumbered United in both total shots (23 to 15) and shots on target (six to two). This means that, due to having less numbers, United were making shots of better average quality, but ever so slightly. This was slightly skewed due to Varane’s goal coming from close range, giving it a high expectancy to be a goal. Wolves’ best chance statistically was the one Matheus Cunha had after 48 minutes when he hit the woodwork.
Still, Ten Hag and his team should most be worried about the fact they conceded a total of 15 shots from inside the box. This time, they were lucky to not have been punished.
Mount Ineffective On His Debut
When Mason Mount arrived, great expectations were put on his shoulder due to a big transfer fee paid to Chelsea, but also the fact he decided to take the iconic number seven shirt. But his debut last 68 minutes and was forgettable in every since. Starting alongside Bruno Fernandes, Mount failed to do much on the pitch and the numbers prove that as well.
Mount made mere 29 touches of the ball, just nine more than Jadon Sancho who played for the last 23 minutes of the match. He did not have shot on goal nor did he create a chance for someone else. He had a single progressive pass made, and even that one was not in the final third of the pitch. He did not make a single take-on either, let alone make it a successful one. Defensively, it was obvious United were hurting in midfield and Mount’s lack of work probably explains that to some extent – he lost both challenges he went in, he made zero tackles, zero blocks and a solitary interception. This will be a match to forget for him.
Bruno Works For Two
Maybe Mount’s performance was the reason why Bruno Fernandes in some areas of his performance ‘worked for two’. Bruno managed to make one shot against Wolves and created three key passes, joint-most for United. But he was eager to help out defensively too – the Portuguese made six tackles, winning two of them. He won four out of the nine challenges he went in and added one block and one interception. He made 11 progressive passes, helping United get forward. This was not his best performance, that much is obvious to everyone, but it showed Bruno’s energy and eagerness to help out in a team that was unbalanced and struggled through the middle.