Fewer shots, fewer goals, fewer passes, more yellow cards, more goals conceded and no points from goals scored in 'Fergie time' show why things are so bad at Manchester United
Shots and goals scored after 20 games
United 2012-13: 245 shots, 50 goals
United 2013-14: 202 shots, 33 goals
Chelsea: 251 shots, 38 goals
Arsenal: 220 shots, 39 goals
Liverpool: 265 shots, 46 goals
Man City: 265 shots, 57 goals
Under David Moyes, United’s goal output over the first 20 league games of the season is a remarkable 17 fewer than at the same stage of the 2012-13 campaign.
After 20 games of last season, the team had scored 50 goals, yet the tally of 33 this term highlights United’s regression as an attacking force. Every area of analysis in terms of United’s goal threat shows a decline from last season’s figures.
United are scoring fewer goals per game, with an average of 1.65 goals, substantially down on the 2.5 from this stage a year ago.
Overall, United are testing the opposition goalkeeper on a much less frequent basis with just 202 shots on goal compared to 245 after 20 games last season.
Even blocked shots, which are a separate category, have dropped this year, with 73 last term and 62 this. Shooting accuracy is also down, with a goals-to-shots ratio of 16.3 per cent now in contrast to 20.4 per cent last year.
Passes in final third
United 2012/13: 3342
United 2013/14: 3012
United’s passing statistics for 2013-14 make grim reading, with the overall picture suggesting that the team have become more direct and more careless in possession under Moyes, whose success at Everton was built on a tactic of long passes into the attacking third of the pitch. Their 8,598 short passes is well behind the leading four clubs this season.
On average, United are now making almost 80 fewer passes per game than in Ferguson’s final season in charge last term. In 20 games last season, United made a total of 11,094 passes, but the ball is now doing much less work, with the average number of passes per game dropping from 554 to 485. In the final third of the pitch, Moyes’s team have made 3,012 passes this season compared to 3,342 at this stage a year ago. More worryingly, United’s pass completion becomes even worse in the final third, with last season’s success rate of 76.8 per cent dropping to 71.7 per cent.
The biggest concern for United supporters is likely to be the one area of passing that has seen a percentage rise this season – long balls. Long passes consisted of just 9.6 per cent of United’s passing statistics after 20 games last season, but that figure has now climbed to 11.5 per cent.
United 2012/13: 548
United 2013/14: 531
Man City: 472
It will not surprise those who have watched United on a regular basis this season to discover that the team’s crossing statistics highlight a drop in both quantity and quality in comparison to last season.
Injuries and a loss form suffered by both Nani and Ashley Young may be contributory factors – potentially cancelled out by Adnan Januzaj’s emergence and crossing ability – while Antonio Valencia’s poor delivery has also become an issue.
But whatever the reasons, United are now providing fewer crosses for their forwards than they were a year ago under Ferguson. By this stage of the 2012-13 season, United had registered 548 crosses in 20 league games, at a completion rate of 21.5 per cent. A year on, the figure has dropped to 531 crosses, with the completion rate falling to 20.3 per cent.
Tellingly, Javier Hernandez, a forward who thrives on balls delivered from the flanks, has scored just one league goal this season, compared to eight at this stage 12 months ago. Interestingly, though, they are still putting in more crosses than their rivals in the top four, suggesting that the successful sides this season are able to open up defences on the ground, rather than using aerial threats.
United 2012/13: 34
United 2013/14: 41
United are falling foul of referees on a more regular basis this season, with more fouls being committed and an increase in yellow and red cards. Although Everton’s 'Dogs of War’ nickname preceded Moyes at Goodison Park, his teams shared the tenacity of the Joe Royle outfit who earned their fearsome billing in the 1990s.
United have, by no means, morphed into a 'dirty’ team under Moyes and the rise in their disciplinary numbers may be because they are spending more time defending than attacking in comparison to last season. But United have, nonetheless, committed 218 fouls in 20 league games this season compared to 202 from the same number of games a year ago.
Ferguson’s team collected 34 yellow cards from the same period, with Moyes’s team racking up 41. Adnan Januzaj, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney have all contributed to that total with bookings for diving. Antonio Valencia has earned United’s solitary red card in the league.
United 2012/13: 28
United 2013/14: 24
Man City: 23
As their position in the table would suggest, United have conceded more goals than the top four sides this season. But the good news for Moyes and United is that the team have actually improved defensively this season, with figures rising in most areas. This time last season, United had conceded 28 goals in 20 league games, but that number has dropped to 24.
Yet critics will point to this reflecting a further nod towards Everton, with United’s traditional attacking game being compromised in favour of the more defensive approach.
Has flair and adventure been replaced by tenacity and caution? The reason for that could be stability in goal, where David de Gea has been an in-form ever-present in contrast to the uncertainty of last season, when he and Anders Lindegaard shared goalkeeping duties.
United have made fewer tackles so far this season, 345 compared to 388, but they have become better at tackling, with statistics showing they now win 79.4 per cent of challenges compared to 79.1 per cent last year. Moyes’s players are now more prepared to throw their bodies in the way than last season, with blocks, clearances and interceptions rising to 1,204 from 1,059 last season. As a result, opponents have been restricted to fewer shots on goal.
Points from goals scored in 'Fergie Time'
United 2012/13: 11
United 2013/14: 0
Manchester United were once the undisputed kings of the late goal, with the phrase 'Fergie Time’ being coined to reflect the unerring ability of Ferguson’s teams to rescue points or clinch victories with goals in the dying seconds.
Under Moyes, 'Fergie Time’ has ceased to exist, with United failing to salvage a single point this season with a goal in the final 10 minutes of a game. The picture has changed so remarkably under Moyes that United are now more likely to suffer in 'Fergie Time’ than gain from it.
A year ago, United had won 11 points by virtue of goals scored in the final 10 minutes of their first 20 Premier League games. But now, Moyes is waiting for United to register their first point with a goal scored after the 80th minute, so dramatic has the turnaround proved to be.
Equally worrying is that only Fulham have lost as many points – five – as United by conceding in the final 10 minutes of games.
The famous United surge which typified the team under Ferguson has become a slump under Moyes, with his players appearing to lack either the energy or belief – or both – to do what they did so often under their former manager.