Manchester United are currently on international break, as is the rest of Europe, with national teams preparing for the final EURO 2024 qualifiers, but also 2026 World Cup qualifiers in Africa and South America. While we wait for the Red Devils to be back in action, today we will be taking a look into some more advanced numbers to see some trends early into the new Premier League season, and see what is it that United should improve that would give them much better chances of achieving the results they want.
In the first 12 matches of the season, United already lost on five occasions and have a negative goal-difference, scoring 13 and conceding 16 in the process. It is true that they kept a clean-sheet in their last two games, but they also scored just twice – getting 1-0 wins against Fulham and Luton. So, let’s get into the numbers to see what has been going so far.
Get Into Better Chances
Well, we are not discovering the wheel with this one. It might sound obvious and when United have been struggling so much with scoring goals, it is something that everyone would mention. But here is how bad things really are – the quality of the shots the Devils are taking this season is really low. In fact, they are at 0.10 expected goals per shot (excluding penalties), which puts them in the region of Bournemouth, Fulham, Nottingham Forest, but also Arsenal and Tottenham. But the problem is not solely there – it is also that United are managing to shoot on target much less than some of the best teams in the league. WIth 4.38 shots on target per match, they are far behind Newcastle (5.31), Brighton (5.69), let alone Man City (6.62). United are more in the rank of Crystal Palace (4.23). Add to that the fact that United are among the biggest underperformers and you see a big issue there – the Devils scored 3.7 goals less than what expected goals would give them chance for, which is fourth worst differential between goals scored and expected goals.
Decrease Loose Balls Numbers
Man United need to make their games less chaotic and better control what is happening on the pitch. They are fourth best team in the league with 705 ball recoveries, but that is not necessarily a good thing. The teams around them are not the teams that are great at controling the matches either – Liverpool, Luton, Everton, Bournemouth, Tottenham, Chelsea… Those are also the teams where lots of unexpected things happen, where lots of lost possessions occur and that makes it tougher on controling the match. Control is something Ten Hag’s Ajax used to be great at, although in a much different league, but a look at the opposite end of these standings is telling – the teams with least ball recoveries are, expectedly, Arsenal and Manchester City, with Aston Villa and Brighton just behind. That is where United should aim to be.
Give Onana Easier Life
Andre Onana has been heavily criticised since joining Man United, somewhat deservedly and somewhat undeservedly so. But a look at the Premier League numbers shows that he has not had the best help from his teammates. So far, he conceded 3.4 goals less than he was expected to, showing his good ability to stop more than the model would expect him to. But then again, United still conceded way too many chances – 18.4 post-shot expected goals, to be precise. That is more than Everton, NOttingham Forest, Brentford and Cristal Palace. The quality of those shots are 0.25 on average, which is the best in the league, but the sheer volume of shots Onana has to deal with is hurting him and the team. This means the defence must get much tighter and then Onana’s job will be much easier than it is now.