Data Rant: will United make the Champions League?

November 3, 2014 Tags: , , Data 12 comments
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Each week, Louis van Gaal appears to break a new record: the “worst x games in Manchester United history”. This time round the lowest points total at this stage since 1986 – in the corresponding week that Ron Atkinson was sacked 28 years ago. Indeed, the David Moyes experience has tinted everyone’s outlook though Sir Alex Ferguson’s remarkable rise after a lean first few years should not be forgotten just yet.

With that said, United’s loss to City on Sunday all but conceded the title. Barring a catastrophic meltdown on Chelsea’s part, United’s 21st English title will have to wait. Worse, for United, reaching the top four spot is under genuine threat.

United is only four points behind Arsenal in fourth and the gap may be bridged to just one should the Reds prevail against the London side in two week’s time. Moreover, while Southampton’s point haul so far is amazing, at the risk of being patronising, the Saints’ thin squad will surely suffer as the season goes one, dragging the side down at some point.

In that context the situation may appear somewhat manageable, but it is worth remembering that there are still 28 games to go – continuation of the current form will see United missing Europe for two seasons in a row.

After all, as Data Rant previously noted the number of “poor streaks” is a good indicator of the final points tally. A poor streak is two or more consecutive draws or losses and “a team may have a poor patch of form – even a pretty severe one – but it’s fine as long as the team can get back to winning ways and stay on that path.”


The past two seasons suggests that side’s in the top four have suffered at most five poor streaks during a campaign, though realistically only three are allowed. United has already suffered two by this definition and there is little margin for error if history has any weight.


Data Rant also analysed the relationship between the final point tally and points from the first five games of 2012/13 and 2013/14. The relationship was weak – after all, five games is only 13 per cent of a season. Let’s see if we can judge a season after a quarter of it has passed.


Quite obviously the fit of trend line has tightened. The predicted final tally based on 13 points at this stage is just 51 – nowhere near the top four. Normally, a mid-70 final point total is required to qualify for the Champions League.

Points Total

The standard deviation here is 13.9, assuming normal distribution, meaning there is about a 4.2 per cent probability of United gathering 75 points come May, according to Data Rant’s calculations.

Points Total

Excellence is no longer enough – only consistent excellence will do. A busy winter transfer window is a must though this may very well be a job too far even for the “Iron Tulip.”

All data from Squawka
Assumptions dictating linear regression have not been held strict


Subterranean Steve - November 3, 2014 Reply

Ron Atkinson never missed a top four finish in his five full seasons in charge.

Presumably, he would have been seen as successful by today’s ambitions.

Denton Davey - November 4, 2014 Reply

LIes, damned lies, and statistics.

4 points off TheArse; essentially level with Spurs/Everton/LiverPoo.

On the other hand, how many different combinations in central defence in just ten matches – 13 ? 14 ??

What TheLads need is a return to stability and good health of the first-choice players. Only then will any prognostication based on a truly-bizarre start to the season make any predictions worthwhile.

Denton Davey - November 5, 2014 Reply

M.E.N. reports 10 different combinations with Rojo/McNair being the combination with the most on-field time together: 180 minutes (out of a possible 900-plus)

Adrian Goh - November 4, 2014 Reply

I’m doubting it now unless we start to pickup points

Amunpal Mann - November 4, 2014 Reply

. @datarant this is an excellent piece. And very worrying.

Ray - November 4, 2014 Reply


Matt Fisher - November 4, 2014 Reply

I have a horrible feeling that we won’t – need to start stringing wins together ASAP!

Matt Fisher - November 4, 2014 Reply

I have a horrible feeling that we won’t – need to start stringing wins together ASAP!

ForeverRed - November 5, 2014 Reply

Despite all the legitimate defensive concerns, we’ve actually tightened up as a unit in the last couple of games and I am frankly more worried right now about our misfiring forward line. Clearly it’s not clicking – either on an individual basis or as the sum of the parts. 1 goal from a striker in 3 games illustrates this fact. DiMaria, looks the most likely to create something from nothing, but even he’s been quite wasteful by his standards in the last couple of games. RvP’s been off form for a long time now and the sooner we can get Falcao back and given a run in his place the better. With a dodgy defence, we need to be scoring more than we concede, which we really should be doing with the options we have up top.

Denton Davey - November 5, 2014 Reply

I completely agree with the last sentence regarding to “scoring more”. The front-line seems almost as dysfunctional as the rear-guard.

How odd is it that the midfield has been the unit that seems to be the most coherent so far into this season ?

loso - November 7, 2014 Reply

funny thing is our midfield has out-scored our forward line.And is not being as overrun as some would suggest with blind performing in the solo defensive position

the real deal - November 12, 2014 Reply

Fans that go to all the games home and away are not happy with van Gaal.
The results are SHOCKING!
We will not make the top 4 and van Gaal will be asked to leave at the end of the season.

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