Numbers don’t lie – United worse than 12 months ago

December 8, 2013 Tags: , Reads 17 comments
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Detailed analysis of the data isn’t required in order to realise that David Moyes’ Manchester United is an inferior vintage to Sir Alex Ferguson’s – of almost any of the past 20 years. But there is illumination in the numbers this season, with Moyes’ outfit failing in comparison to his predecessor’s on almost every key stat. Indeed, the data points to a deterioration in United that is probably systemic – a symptom of the change that Moyes has driven in six months at Old Trafford.

Take the first 15 games of this campaign compared to a similar number of matches from the start of United’s 2012/13 season. Moyes’ outfit is now 14 points worse off than Ferguson’s and has scored just 22 goals compared to 37 under Ferguson after 15 matches. Or to put that in context, United has suffered five league defeats compared to three a year ago, with a goal difference of just plus three compared to 16.

Beneath the surface the numbers fail to show Moyes’ side in a good light either. United’s passing is less accurate, the average length of pass is longer, and the Reds are enjoying less possession in games as a result. Moreover, United’s loss of possession is translating into fewer chances created – just 139 in the first 15 games this season compared to 189 at the same stage of Ferguson’s final campaign as United manager. And when Moyes’ side does create chances the forwards are shooting with a little less accuracy than in the past.

By contrast Moyes’ side is on the back foot more than under Ferguson, with the Reds being forced into 20 per cent more defensive actions – blocks, tackles and clearances – than in the first 15 games of last season. It is no surprise that United has also picked up eight more yellow cards than at this stage last year.

None of this is happy reading, of course, and much of it is the result of Moyes’ tactical desire for United to be a little more direct, channel the ball into wide areas and deliver crosses. Not that delivery from wide areas is accurate this year, while United leads the league in “crosses from deep.” Or in other words aimless balls punted into the box.

Put simply, United is passing the ball longer, with less accuracy, creating fewer chances and the team’s shooting is not quite as sharp. The result is fewer goals and points secured. Never a recipe for success.

It is, some might argue, an old school philosophy in a very modern age, perhaps summarised in a very simple data point: the number of long balls United now plays has increased from 10 per cent under Ferguson to 12 per cent with Moyes in charge. Only Arsenal and Manchester City played fewer long balls than United last season; Moyes’ outfit is now distinctly in the middle of this table now.

Moyes Stats

The numbers don’t look pretty for individuals in United’s squad either, bar perhaps Wayne Rooney. Rooney has scored eight in 13 Premier League appearances to date this season, or 0.61 per game. The Scouser scored at 0.44 goals per game last season.

Meanwhile, the former Evertonian has created 2.15 chances per game this season, compared to 1.8 last season and provided seven assists in the league compared to 10 over the entire league campaign last year.

Robin van Persie, by contrast, has been marginally less effective in an injury-hit season. The Dutchman is scoring at 0.63 goals per Premier League game, compared to 0.68 last season, and has two assists, compared to eight in the full campaign last season.

Elsewhere, especially in midfield, Moyes side has struggled this season. Michael Carrick is passing a touch less this season at 77 per game, but with less accuracy as well. Tom Cleverley and Marouanne Fellaini barely average 50 passes per game. Little wonder United’s possession is down and the side is creating far fewer chances.

Defensively, the key metrics for Nemanja Vidić, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra, Chris Smalling and David de Gea are down.

The data leads to an obvious question: whether Moyes’ start is symptomatic of a failing strategy, or simply a “transitional period” in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. After all, Moyes start to life at United has been tougher than anybody expected, with the Reds losing five of 15 matches in the Premier League to date.

Play the season forward from here and United’s 22 points will translate into just 56 by the season’s end – leaving the Reds somewhere around eighth and out of the European places altogether. While United’s campaign is unlikely to be that cataclysmic the numbers surely contradict Moyes’ claim that the Reds can still win the Premier League this season.

In a competitive league it might take less than the 89 points that secured the Premier League over the past two seasons. But should, say, 82 secure the title come May, United will still need to record 19 wins, two draws and just two defeats before the campaign’s end.

In fact fourth place and a Champions League spot might be a significant achievement from this point. It might require nearly 50 further points from Moyes’ side, or 16 wins, four draws, and two further loses. Even in the most optimistic scenario only twice over the past decade has it taken less than 68 points to secure fourth – each time coming with a runaway league winner. In other words, it is likely that United will need to win 15 or more games from the next 23 simply to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Failure to make the Champions League is, of course, a doomsday scenario for Moyes. One that will test the owners’ resolve to stick with the Scot through his full six-year contract. After all, while most supporters agree that Moyes deserves time, he is unlikely to match the time proffered to Ferguson between 1986 and 1993 before the league title returned to Old Trafford.

After all, Ferguson took charge of an under-achieving squad that hadn’t secured the league in two decades. Moyes, with more than a decade in the Premier League, secured the job as manager of England’s champion club. It is also a club that boasts the third highest revenue of any club on the planet, and for whom failure is inconceivable.

Data: Squawka, EPLIndex, Whoscored, Statto


RedIssue1 - December 8, 2013 Reply

Don’t need numbers to tell us that mate.Theyaren’t buying into the manager’s ideas, yesterday was the start of the end for Moyes

8cairnsy8 - December 8, 2013 Reply

I dont think you need numbers to see that.

maburach - December 8, 2013 Reply

Fill in the blank. #Moyes will get it right because … #MUFC

Adam - December 8, 2013 Reply

lol obviously

Graham - December 8, 2013 Reply

I actually said all this would happen when he was appointed, he’s brought his mid-table Everton staff and tactics to Old Trafford. He ignored Ferguson who told him not to sack the backroom staff, and to preserve the longevity.
The question is can the Glazers afford to let him take the team to eighth place from first in one season, the bigger problem is, if you get rid of him, who gets the job ? whoever comes in, will bring in new staff, in short the board should never have let him appoint the likes of Steve Round and Phil Neville, they should never have let Phelan, Meulensteen and Steele leave the club, not on Moyes authority alone, they sought Fergusons advice on who they should appoint, they should also have sought Fergusons advice on who Moyes could and couldn’t sack, it’s madness that they allowed a man who has won nothing, to get rid of the best coaching team United had seen in decades. a fans forum for football fans

Sean - December 9, 2013 Reply

Moyes took over a championship winning team turned them into a mid table mediocrity, during the same time Martinez has turned Everton into a top team simple as that

will - December 9, 2013 Reply

Without arsenal stupidly selling VP to my last season this would be then firgy new this then jump ship

Amnon Zohar - December 9, 2013 Reply

Why are people blind to the fact that Moyes personality is at odds with United’s tradition and spirit. To motivate multi millionaire players takes leadership qualities that Moyes does not possess. To earn their respect and trust takes and get the best out of them requires faith and respect for the leader. Moyes doesn’t have it and this is not going to change. What may change is that United will become Moyes: middle of the table Everton ( of years past) cautious, protecting 1:0 leads, satisfied with ties etc. I say take action now let him go.

SKW - December 9, 2013 Reply

I think it is too soon for the sack, but when I look for reasons to keep him “too soon” is all I can come up with.

There seems to be no plan being put into action.

I mean, does anyone think Leighton Baines changes this side? Because that’s the only buy we will make in the transfer window, I’m sure.

MarkHawes - December 9, 2013 Reply

Part of me thinks its unfair to not give him at least a season or two, however as people have mentioned, the season so far is our only indication of the future under Moyes and that future looks mid table. If we fail to get champions league football then aside from nobody wanting to join us we could well lose the very few good players we have already e.g. Rooney, DeGea, Adnan etc.
None of our midfielders would get into the Newcastle team, let alone Bayern or Barcelona.

Neil - December 9, 2013 Reply

This is a painful time that we’re experiencing, it looks like a carbon copy of when Hodgson was put in as Liverpool manager – for a big list of reasons, some very tangible, some quite intangible, it was the wrong appointment and no matter if Liverpool had given him 2 or 3 years their downward spiral would have continued. They cut their losses before too much damage was done. Rodgers seems to fit what they needed in a manager.

There aren’t any positives to be taken so far this season; the results are bad (not disastrous yet) but the performances have been abysmal, only one player (Rooney) seems genuinely motivated, the coaching seems to have had such a comprehensive downgrade that any semblances of flowing passing moves are a distinct rarity…

There is no intensity, the culture of attacking play, drive and determination has been severely diluted because it is not in Moyes’ nature to play that way.
I would say “give him time” – yes, of course I would – but there are minimum requirements no matter which job you’re in… if it’s a transitional period then show us some performances with promise (even if results are patchy), sign some quality players and bring through the youngsters who show the most promise.

Don’t waste the transfer budget, which was light enough already, on players who aren’t going to go straight into the first team, or who aren’t good enough to be at the club. Don’t bring your small club, risk averse mentality by signing only players you’ve worked with before – it’s pathetic – grow some balls and sign the right players.
At the moment, our trajectory is towards finishing 5th or 6th – we’ve got a big challenge on our hands to finish ahead of all three of Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton.

On paper, giving him time is theoretically sound, but in reality if United don’t qualify for the Champions League or the Europa League this season then our better players will consider their future – why stay at a club in terminal decline with a manager you don’t believe in… who is signing mediocre players with the transfer budget? Rooney and Van Persie would surely want to move, and will put us under big pressure to do so – meanwhile fewer players would want to join.

The squad is extremely lop-sided, but other managers (Pochettino, Laudrup, Martinez, hell even coach Meulensteen stepping in as manager) could have given us a better season so far with the same players.

Going forward we need to assess things at the end of the season and go from there – then long term (2 years plus) I would like to see someone new appointed who genuinely fits the culture of attacking play at the club.

Ezzer - December 12, 2013 Reply

Very eloquently expressed. If I could afford it I would pay for this to be a whole page ad in one of the nationals.

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Tommy - December 10, 2013 Reply

Talk about stating the obvious United Rant, of course the stats are going to be worse because we were top at this stage last year and now we are 9th. The sooner he brings in his own players and gets rid of a few the better our performances will be, untill then sit tight and be patient its going to be a bumpy ride

GFS - December 10, 2013 Reply

Well said Neil

There were several sources that pointed that Moyes was similar to Ferguson in many ways both scottish/ glaswegan tough and rough upbringing and all that but that’s about it and I would also go on to say that even though moyes looks though physically but he is not very brave or confident and its showing in the way he deals with the media and the way we play which is very risk averse like you said

twisted blood - December 10, 2013 Reply

The squad is extremely lop-sided, but other managers (Pochettino, Laudrup, Martinez, hell even coach Meulensteen stepping in as manager) could have given us a better season so far with the same players.

God you’re so right. Who’d have thought we would be praying for the return of our first team coach to be a manager? God I bet Juergen Klopp wouldn’t even touch us now………

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