Category Archives: Reviews

Rom Hits Back with Two! Crystal Palace Match Review

Ole has continued to impress as he remains unbeaten in the league, only dropping two points against Burnley at the end of January. Man United has now recorded eight straight away wins, making Solskjaer the first Manchester United manager in the Premier League to do so. The fans are applauding the Norwegian’s tactical knowledge by getting all three points in a tough away fixture at Selhurst Park with an injury ravaged side.

Someone who has found himself somewhat out of favour is the Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku who netted twice before Ashley Young sealed the deal in the 83′ minute. However, despite scoring twice some fans are unsure of his abilities and question his composure as he continues to miss big open chances game upon game.

Some fans were also disappointed not to see Tahith Chong grace the field as many were expecting him to due to the injuries regarding both Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard. However 17-year-old James Garner came on to make his debut albeit just as a small cameo substitution made on the 90′ minute to replace the Brazilian, Fred. Majority of fans are hoping that Ashley Young, despite scoring late on, will not continue to feature so heavily come next season as many believe in the depth of the squads youth players such as Chong, Dalot and Fosu – Mensah (on loan to Fulham) who can help patrol the right side.

https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/crystal-palace-1-man-utd-3-romelu-lukaku-double-united-win-at-selhurst-park-a4078531.html
Ashley young scores late to ensure all three points. [Evening Standard]
The majority of fans are hoping Ole is given the job on a permanent basis as he continues to break records and ensure the club are within a chance of getting top four football come the end of the season; something that looked far out of sight at the time of his arrival.

Ole’s at the wheel, long may it last!

Man United out of Champions League? PSG Match Review

Ole Gunner Solskjær has just recorded his first defeat as Interim Manager of Manchester United and I’m afraid to say the team looked toothless across the pitch.

During the opening few minutes of the match the team looked poised to get something from the game. Pressing and closing down high up the pitch; it was evident the team were given instructions to press high and put veteran goalkeeper ‘Gigi’ Buffon under pressure and quickly close him down. However, as the game went on and PSG gained a foothold in the game and began to dominate, the pressing stopped and the intensity from the squad was not good enough.

Pogba was kept quiet throughout the entire game before his sending off, but especially in the first as Marquinhos was providing a fantastic, specific man marking role; somewhat similar to Herrera’s owning of Hazard a few seasons ago.

https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/manchesterunited/man-utd-news-live-solskjaer-press-conference-psg-reaction-pogba-injury-every-word-a4064961.html
Paul Pogba sent off for a second yellow foul on Dani Alves [Evening Standard]

Injury blows for United as both Lingard and Martial both went off injured throughout the night. Jesse Lingard went off in the first half with what looked to be a hamstring injury and was replaced by the highest paid substitute in Alexis Sanchez. In regards to Anthony Martial, the Frenchman was replaced by Juan Mata at the break as he pulled up with what looked like a groin injury around the half hour mark earlier in the game.

PSG made it 0-1 at 53′ minutes and scored again on the hour mark as both Kimpembe and Mbappe scored for the French champions.

Manchester United looked toothless throughout with Marcus Rashford looking increasingly frustrated with the level of service provided. They barely tested Buffon in goal and will undoubtedly be disappointed by their performance tonight. The game at Old Trafford would’ve been one of the best chances to have beaten the french side as they were without players such as: Neymar, Cavani and Meunier.

Manchester United need to regroup quickly for their FA Cup tie against Chelsea to maintain any ambition of staying in a cup competition as their run in the Champions League looks all but gone. With both Lingard and Martial both potential doubts for that fixture the squad already looks bare in positions and incomings are needed in the summer like they were in the January window but were overlooked instead focusing on extending some dubious players’ contracts.

Champions League Squad Announced

Jose Mourinho has chosen his 25 man ‘A list’ for this years Champions League, one that does not include Marcus Rashford.

Rashford is considered a homegrown player and as he is still under twenty-one years of age he does not need to be registered on the squad list to allow him to take part in this years competition.

Players who are registered in the squad include first team regulars such as: Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and David De Gea. However, new faces also included this season are summer signings Lee Grant, Fred and Diogo Dalot.

Champions League Squad:

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant

Defenders: Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Phil jones, Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw

Midfielders: Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Fred, Marouane Fellaini, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic

Forwards: Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez

Manchester United Handed Tough Group!

Manchester United have been handed a very tough group in this years Champions League Draw.

Having been in Pot 2 for the draw the three time champions are placed alongside: Juventus, Valencia and BSC Young Boys.

Going off current form Man United may struggle to gain qualification from this group and they need to use this International break wisely and regroup and focus as their league form so far has been embarrassing. The Champions League is a stage for the big stars to shine and perform something that the United players so far have not been doing; players such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez need to improve and find form quickly if they want their club to progress within this illustrious tournament.

The draw also signals the return of the fan favourite Cristiano Ronaldo as his new side Juventus will travel to Old Trafford once more. Ronaldo, whom only this season moved to the Italian champions for just under £100 million will undoubtedly be excited about the prospect about returning to the club where his global domination began in front of the fans who still hold him close to their heart.

These fixtures could prove vital in the outcome of Jose Mourinho’s job and he will hope they will be a springboard for success and a catalyst of change for the Manchester club.

(Picture:www.skysports.com)

Brilliant Beckham

Beckham has an enduring place in my heart, as he was a truly magnificent player whose quality at United and contribution during our period of success cannot be undervalued. He was a quite superb dead ball specialist whose corners and free kicks created havoc for opposing defenders and goalkeepers alike. He was the sort of winger that strikers thrive off, who had an unerring accuracy in knowing the position to place the ball so that they had maximum potential to be able to supply the finishing touch. He was a member of the Class of 92, one of the elite youngsters who when combined with more seasoned professionals would sweep all before them during a period of domestic dominance which culminated in the Holy Grail of the Champions League trophy in 1999. During that famous night Beckham was the key ingredient which first salvaged and then secured a trophy which had been on the brink of escaping, the final piece in the magical Unprecedented Treble. Firstly a whipped delivery into the middle of the crowded box for his initial corner where Schmeichel’s green jersey lurked and could cause the most havoc, from which the result was a prodded Sheringham finish. Secondly, a near post corner which found Sheringham to flick toward goal which Solskjaer rammed home to spark raucous celebration. Had we the current crop of United players, these corners would more than likely have been wasted, the delivery either overshot or failing to evade the first man. Beckham’s potency gave an edge that almost seemed like cheating, in a time where we were festooned with strikers who would score all types of goals if given such a cavalcade of ammunition to utilise. This is summed up aptly here by goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel:

“You only have to go on MUTV and watch programmes like ‘Ruud van Nistelrooy: all the goals’, ‘Andy Cole: All the goals’ and so on, and see how many goals they scored came from his crosses. A cross from him is as good as a goal. His crossing was unbelievable. ”

Beckham’s early life was typical of that of a precocious boy who dreamed of playing football, whose soul ambition was to secure a playing role in the beautiful game. When asked the arch old question of what career he wished to pursue, Beckham remained obstinate beyond castigation that he would indeed fulfil this dream. Fortuitously for him, as all United fans know, he had the talent in abundance in order to make this dream a reality and was signed up for United after impressing particularly as a youth who had come to prominence whilst attending one of Sir Bobby Charlton’s football schools. As Neville remarked during his own recollection of Beckham’s arrival into the group of fledgling prodigies that were to become later known as the Class of 92, there was a real sense that Beckham’s presence acted as catalyst for the others who were envious of the sheer natural football talent that he (Beckham) had at his disposal even at such a young age.

He was the final member of the greatest midfield quartet to grace the Premier League, providing the width and demanding the pressure of the Number 7 shirt. In Keane’s autobiography, Keane recounts that Sir Alex wanted to give Keane the shirt but that the Irishman thought that Beckham better befitted that jersey. It proved to be an inspirational choice, particularly as Beckham was charged with filling the shoes of the King, Eric Cantona. On the first day of the 96-97 season Beckham scored a goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon, it was a goal which propelled the youngster straight into the nation’s consciousness. It was the season where Beckham cemented his place as a first choice starter for United and was voted to be PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers. Though the following season was disappointing, it was during the Treble season that Beckham came alive; this flying in the face of the widespread condemnation Beckham had received for the infamous petulant kick which many felt was the direct contributing factor to England’s early exit in the previous summer’s World Cup. It was here that Beckham demonstrated his endeavour and bravery by succeeding when many prayed for his failure. He finished the season, as arguably United’s most valuable asset, an assertion given credence by him finishing runner up to Rivaldo in both the European and World Player of the Year award.

As Ryan Giggs pointed out, the remainder of the United squad knew Beckham’s value to the team and the squad pouring the following praise upon his team mate:

“The best crosser of the ball I have ever seen. You would make a run and he would put the ball into your path without having to break stride. A brilliant footballer.”

His fine form was carried into the next season as United won the Premier League by a handsome 18 points in the 99-2000 season. In particular though it was Beckham’s extracurricular activities which were giving Sir Alex the biggest headache, the fact that in 2000 he was given permission to miss out on training in order to take care of his son, Brooklyn who had gastroenteritis. However, Victoria was then spotted at the London Fashion Week Night that day which meant that she could have looked after the sick child. As Ferguson was quick to admonish:

“He was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time; he was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment, his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity; football is only a small part.”

United though were still in a period of great dominance and this was reflected when they secured their third successive league title in 2000-1. He scored nine goals that season, all of which came in the Premier League. In the following season Beckham scored 16 goals in 42 games in all competitions which was the best of his career, it demonstrated a player whose capabilities were at an all time high in terms of end product. However, Beckham lost his place the next year, following an early season injury, to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and struggled to get back into the team. In February 2003 following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal Beckham was infamously then the victim of Sir Alex Ferguson’s ire receiving a football boot to the head which really sparked the beginning of the end for the winger. All in all, Beckham made 265 league appearances for Manchester United and scored 61 goals. He also made 81 Champions League appearances and scored 15 goals. His medal total was quite remarkable accruing 6 Premier League Titles, 2 FA Cups, 1 UCL, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 Youth Cup in a 12 year period with the club.

When Beckham left he moved to Real Madrid, his dream of continuing to play for United was in tatters. As he has said before, he couldn’t bear to watch United for two years following the swap. He had a heartfelt connection to his boyhood club and ultimately didn’t want to leave, though he then enjoyed the remainder of his career sequentially with Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris St Germain which amounted to quite an illustrious spell of globetrotting. There are those including Sir Alex who felt that Beckham could have made more of himself had he really applied his full talent to his craft rather than what some might refer to as his brand and the celebrity where he really excelled, becoming a global phenomenon in how he marketed himself. However, it is hard to forget how much Beckham had worked to get to where he was and also that he was a quite incredible footballer first and foremost. He had a natural engine which few could match, often covering great distances and was very much an athlete which gave him the extra longevity that only the footballers who take the greatest care of themselves can hope to achieve. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, himself an undisputed legend of the game was quick to praise Beckham’s personality and ethics with regard to how he handled himself even at a mature age, when he went to play for Paris St Germain:

“As a footballer it is important to be yourself and live your life – not to live in a bubble, not enjoying your life. That is what I admire about Beckham. The attention that follows him is not easy to live out your life. But he does it. I even told him that I admired him because he brings his children to surfing, to the park. I felt sometimes I would stay at home, because I want to be left alone. But after I saw him, he brought me off the couch and he motivated me to take my family out and do these things. If he can do it, then me, someone with 10% of his attention, can do it.”

For me David Beckham is a United legend, a man who won many trophies with us and contributed sublimely at many key times. He will forever belong to the greatest exclusive club in football, those who have worn the hallowed United Number 7 shirt and his football prowess justifies that he is within that pantheon, a player who played with grit, style, determination and panache in equal measure. Without Beckham’s efforts United fans would not have so many enduring memories with which to comfort our souls during this barren period of true domestic success. Beckham will remain interwoven in the rich tapestry of United’s history, the member of the Class of 92 with abilities so unique and special; they even made a movie about one of them. Indeed, nobody could bend it like Beckham and precious few in United’s history have been as good as he was, a legendary player, never forgotten.

Jose Hits 100 Games – How Has He Compared to His Predecessors?

Jose Mourinho has now managed Man Utd for his 100th game against Yeovil on Friday, but how has he compared to his most recent predecessors at the club?

It’s not hard to see that progression has been made at the club under Mourinho, but we’re going to look at how he compared to Moyes’ time in charge and LvG’s first 100 games, despite him managing the club for a total of 103 matches.

Firstly the win, draw and loss percentage of their respective 100 games in charge (54 for Moyes): How do they compare and have we really progressed?
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Mourinho has taken us from an average of 52% win record from the three season’s preceding his arrival to an average of 62% since he’s been at the club. The loss rate has also been reduced significantly since Mourinho to only 15%, compared to 29.63% and 22% from Moyes and LvG respectively. Mourinho has literally turned those ‘L’s into ‘W’s.

Next we’ll look at the goals scored and goals conceded during the respective managers in charge and see if there are any trends. This one is done from season to season using the same data. Let’s take a look.
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Under Moyes we had a respectable 1.7 goals per game, but the goals conceded was relatively high per game at 1.06. The goals conceded under LvG’s watch came steadily down to as low as 0.92 per game in his final season, however the team’s goal scoring rate also came down sharply 1.47 goals a game which is between Leicester’s and Watford’s goal scoring rate this season.

Jose has further improved the defence with the goals conceded rate coming down even further to as little as 0.67 goals per game this season but hasn’t compromised the attack in order to sure up the defence. In terms of goals scored we’ve seen a massive upwards turn especially this season where we’ve score 2.08 goals per game. That’s more than half a goal a game more than LvG’s last season in charge of the Red Devils.

To sum up, we’re seeing a higher win percentage, lower loss percentage under Mourinho: Fewer goals conceded and a sharp increase of goals scored per game.

So what? What’s the point in all this? Well the simple answer is silverware. Well let’s see what they’ve won so far:
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We’re making progress under Mourinho; that is clear to see in spite of the media’s spin. With players like Sanchez coming into the club and players like Bailly to come back into the squad we can hope at the very lease maintain the current rate of progression. Who knows, we might even be able to add to last season’s silverware successes.

Looking forward to Jose’s next 100 games in charge as this is just the start! Glory days will be back at Old Trafford soon!

Jose’s ‘Desire is to Stay’ at Manchester United

There has been a lot of ‘garbage’ in the press spreading yet more fake news about the club we all love. Last night the press published articles scaremongering United fans about Jose’s future at Manchester United. Jose confirmed the news was ‘garbage’. Will the press issue an apology? There’s more chance of Man City filling the Emptihad.

Jose was asked straight away if there was any truth behind the reports in the press. He said: ‘If you want to speak about some news, I say garbage. I don’t find a better word to define… the talk.

He continued: ‘If you want to ask me directly, which I suppose you want: If I see myself next season, in Manchester United. I say; I see myself, and as I told when I arrive, I am going to leave when the club wants me to leave.

I have no intention at all (to leave), my intention is to stay and to work and to improve and to bring the club to where the club belongs. And I want to stay!

I don’t see any reason for not to stay.’ ‘I still have a contract, in fact in the middle of my contract, I’m not in the last couple of months.

My desire is to stay until the owners and the board is happy with my work.

I am ecstatic that Mourinho has once again pledged his future to Man United, as winning managers are scarce in today’s football. All that needs to happen now it for the board of Manchester United to both offer Jose a contract extension, and to back him in the transfer market.

Great news for most United fans!

Man Utd’s Defence Must Step Up

This season has had its ups and downs. We’ve progressed a lot this year in comparison to recent seasons. Our attackers are a lot more clinical, less loose touches, winning a lot more and conceding a lot less. However, how much of that is down to the defenders?

This season we have seen save after save from David De Gea, who looks like he’s better than ever before. Having watched all the matches, it feels as though he’s been busier than he really should be in the Man Utd goal. But as good as he is, he shouldn’t be tested as much as he has been this season. Have the defence been doing their bit in defending the goalkeeper, or is all what it appears?

I’ve been researching the stats to see just how good or bad the defence has been this season.

Here’s how we compare to the rest of the top six:

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Stats Calculated from PremierLeague.com & WhoScored.com

In terms of the tackle success rate in the Premier League this season, Liverpool are surprisingly the most clinical; having a 72% tackle success rate which is second only to Bournemouth. The advantage to being clinical in tackling is the opposition are less likely to get through to shoot on goal. Fewer shots on goal will naturally give the opposition less opportunity to score a goal (Common Sense). Manchester United are ranked 18th in the tackle success rate with only 65%. Poor tackling means more shots on our goal which is one of the reasons we’re seeing so much of De Gea this season.

This is backed up by how many saves the goalkeeper has made from the top six. Man Utd sit second behind Swansea, De Gea has saved an average of 3.5 shots on target per match. The other top six team’s goal keepers have been the most quiet during games in terms of saves so far this season. De Gea is not being protected! However, due to his excellence between the sticks we have been one of the best defences in the league.

Just to drive the point home:

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Stats Calculated from FootStats.co.uk

This table shows how many shots our opponent has had against the top six per game. Then shots on target, goals conceded, shot accuracy and conversion rate.

The top five in the table are ranked in terms of shots conceded per game and how many of those shots are on target from 1st – 5th in the league: However, Man Utd are ranked 8th, behind Crystal Palace and Huddersfield. United are having to save more than twice the amount of shots on target from the opposition than Man City, and significantly more than the other four teams.

You can also see our opponent’s shot accuracy: 37.13% of all shots against Man Utd are on target, which means they’re generally getting into better shooting positions than they are against our rivals. It’s starting to seem a myth that our defence is up to standard and it’s being masked by having the world’s best goalkeeper behind them. Only 6.75% of all shots against us have beaten the goalkeeper, which is the second best behind Burnley who have had to make fewer saves than Man Utd.

Our defence must start stepping up as it will continue to result in us haemorrhaging points as already demonstrated against Leicester and Burnley (Conceding two goals in each). De Gea is a brick wall, we all know that: But it doesn’t give our defence the luxury of switching off from their responsibilities!

 

*On a side note, it appears that Liverpool’s defence is actually doing well this season, and it’s the goalkeeper that’s the weak link at the back. Amusing that they have forked out £75mil on a defender; could have spent half of that on an excellent Goalkeeper which has been their problem position this season. Cheered me up anyways, hopefully it does you guys too!

Man Utd’s Crossing Conundrum

Man Utd appear to have a serious lack of ability in crossing during recent seasons. Something which has been highlighted this season with having a very physical striker who could score a lot more goals through quality crosses.

How does this season compare to those seasons previous in terms of; Crosses Per Game, Crossing Accuracy and Successful Crosses Per Game?

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Calculated from Stats at Premierleague.com

Under Fergie, Man Utd played fast down the wings with quality crosses which usually either resulted in a goal, or forced an own goal. In the 12/13 season Man Utd made an average of 22 crosses per game, over five over those crosses made it successfully into the striker. The number of crosses went up over Moyes but the quality was slightly worse. There were still more than five successful crosses per match.

The two seasons under LvG (with his philosophy), the number of crosses, accuracy and therefore successful crosses had plummeted in his second season. 21 crosses per match with only a 19% chance of finding its target meant that there were less than four accurate crosses per match. However, Martial was the main striker (with Rashford later) on who prefer to receive the ball on the ground and use their pace!

In Mourinho’s first season, United’s crossing accuracy sharply rose to 24% giving us over five crosses per match. This season however, Man Utd’s crossing has become less accurate and Lukaku has only 4 crosses on average per match to feed off.

These are the top five players at crossing for Man Utd who have played over 5 matches:

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Calculated from Stats at WhoScored.com

Not one player manages an average of more than one successful cross per game. That’s simply not good enough when we need to utilise our striker’s best assets; strength an aerial ability. We either need a drastic change of general style of play, or more realistically; purchase a player with excellent crossing skills.

World’s Best Crossers 17/18:

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Calculated from Stats at WhoScored.com

Four of the five players have already been linked to Man Utd over the last few transfer windows. The only player on the list that hasn’t is Bourigeaud.

The two players that excite me the most on the list are Philipp and Kimmich: Both young, both play in positions that need strengthening and both are affordable. Max in on fire this season, making almost the same amount of crosses per game as the Man Utd team combined and already making nine assists. He’s only 24 and would be significantly cheaper than Danny Rose at roughly £15-£20mil.

Manchester United must work on their crossing, it’s starting to hamper the team by not having the option of going wide and attacking from the flanks. It’s becoming predictable an easy to play against. We need activity in the market and I would be happy with Max or Kimmich as realistic solutions. This is where we need the board to step up!

Man Utd’s Overall Progression Under Mourinho

There have been many articles showing how much Man Utd has progressed under Jose Mourinho since the dark days of Moyes and LvG. However, just how much have Man Utd progressed and where has the progression been made? Is the improvement mainly in attack, or is it the defence?The answer may shock a few people.

Man Utd have scored a significant amount of goals so far this season, and kept the most clean sheets in the league. Does that mean we’re more clinical in front of goal compared to previous seasons? Are the strikers more accurate? How about the defence; are the defenders pulling their weight or are we relying too much on the best goalkeeper in the world?

Let’s start with the overall performance: Focusing on win percentage, chances per game and goals per game compared to the previous five seasons.
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Starting with the win percentage, Man Utd have been on a steady decline since LvG’s first season up to and including Mourinho’s first season. This season has seen the win percentage rocket from 47% last season (lowest ever) to 72% which is the best since Ferguson was in charge.

Chances and goals per game have both also shot up to the highest numbers we’ve seen since we last won the league. In most other season’s, Man Utd would be top of the league with the points we have, goals we’ve scored and win rate. It’s just unfortunate that our arch rivals are having a freakish season, but fans need to look past it and trust that we’re on the right path.

Next are stats specifically on the strikers: Comparing how many shots per game they’re getting off, how accurate they are with those shots and what percentage they’re converting to goals.
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To save any confusion, the axis on the left hand side of the graph is purely for the shot accuracy (the red line). The shots per game and shot conversion % are both using the right hand axis for the numbers.

Man Utd had a hat full of shots last season, but they also had the worst shot conversion rate (9.1%) of any Premier League season. Fortunately this season it has shot up to one of the best conversion rate of 16.5% of all shots at goal finding the back of the net. Shot accuracy (% shots on target) has steadily improved over Jose Mourinho’s watch. Our attackers have really improved under this management.

Onto the defenders: Mourinho is renowned for his defensive discipline and improving defenders to provide a solid base to play from. Knowing that if you score a goal the chances of you winning dramatically improve knowing the opposition will unlikely score. So how have they progressed?
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Let’s start with the goals conceded per game. This figure has steadily come down over the last six years and continues to do so this season. The defence isn’t leaking many goals at all, and with the strikers performing better this can only be a good thing.

However, let’s look at how clinical our defenders have been under Jose. The percentage of successful tackles has taken a drastic nose-dive. We’ve gone from averaging 75% successful tackles under Moyes and LvG to 67% over the last two seasons under Jose.

The result of poor tackling is more players getting through to shooting opportunities against our goal. So for our defence to continue to concede so few goals it’ll mean that David De Gea is being worked harder and saving more shots per game. Which is accurately reflected in the stats; he’s gone from saving 2.24 shots per game last season (a career low) to saving 3.83 shots per game this season (a career high).

The questions are: why is that? What’s happened to our defence this season to be so unsuccessful in tackling? It’s a problem that needs sorting out soon. Fans are calling for Man Utd to spend all the January budget on offensively minded players, which I agree we do need a better number 10: But perhaps we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the defenders are struggling this season and we may need an increase in defensive quality during the January market.

Progress is massive under Mourinho in such a short space of time. More wins, more goals, more chances, fewer goals conceded. Just need to improve tackling to save De Gea needing to make too many last ditch saves and risk conceding a greater number of goals in the future.

If this rate of progression continues, success is sure to follow!