Some people like fast cars. Others enjoy fine dining while some like nothing more than settling down at the end of the day with a glass of wine and an episode of Eastenders. As for me, I get excited when I unearth a new statistic article.
I know, I know, it’s pretty depressing right? I don’t know why, but something feels pretty damn good about being able to pull out another useless piece of information as a trump card in yet another football related argument. So imagine my delight when I woke up this morning to a fantastic piece comparing United’s start to this campaign to that of last season under LVG, courtesy of Sky Sports.
It is worth noting at this point that, at the same stage last season, United were top of the table and three points better off than they currently stand today, a statistic that has been pointed out to myself, as I am sure it has many a United fan, several times since Sunday afternoon. However, that statistic alone doesn’t begin to tell even half the tale.
Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the piece is the percentile gem which lists United as top of the pile when it comes to shots on goal this season, with 92, compared to 54 last season, which was placed as the 17th best in the Premier League.
As we are well aware, United last season became almost a chore to watch. Sideways and backwards passing became the norm, whilst attacks on goal were just a mere rose-tinted memory of the Sir Alex Ferguson days. Mourinho seems to have altered the mentality of the squad in his short stint as manager, cutting the amount of passes down to 3623 from 4053. Interestingly, 31.5% of these passes have come within the final third, a near 2% jump on last season.
David Moyes was famously criticised during his tenure as Manchester United boss for throwing cross after cross into the opposition box, with LVG opting to play patient passing football in order to create the killer chance. Mourinho has opted with a mixture of the two to try and recreate the attacking fluidity of that seen during United’s stellar years, seeing his side launch 179 crosses, the 2nd best in the Premier League, compared to only 123 last term.
Mourinho also seems content with allowing the opposition to do all the running, with United currently sitting bottom of the pile when it comes to distance covered, with 735.6km. This could be key when it comes to the latter parts of the season when it comes to the fitness of key players. Under LVG, the team had covered almost 70km more than that seen by Mourinho’s men. Interestingly, United have completed over 150 more sprints than at the same stage as last season, with 3524, with that evidence pointing to the fact that Mourinho is trying to insert a more counter-attacking feel to his side.
See, hasn’t that made you feel better? We may have felt smug when we sat at the top of the tree in early October 2015 but lest us forget how quickly that smugness faded. Whilst we may be in sixth, the stats don’t lie. This is a United team that creates chances and that is giving us reason to enjoy life at Old Trafford once again.
Forget your fast cars, your fine dining, wine and Eastenders…give me a statistic piece to digest any day!