Three victories over Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side since the start of December for Ole. Who thought that would have happened, even only a few months ago. With a very resilient defensive performance, and some quick, instinctive thinking from some players, United managed to run out as relatively comfortable victors in this match-up.
|Manchester United||Manchester City|
|Shots on Target||6||4|
From this match, United had an xG of 1.74 whilst having an xGA of 0.59 (for a more detailed idea of what xG is, click here). This is fantastic as it goes to suggesting that we actually created much clearer cut and better chances than City did, something they characteristically do very well, whilst we usually struggle with it. Only 33% of our total shots were from outside of the box, a drastic decrease from our recent struggle of a performance against Everton; a great sign. Usually, the greater the proportion of shots from within the penalty area indicates they are creating chances better as they are shooting closer to goal, something backed up by the xG numbers. I have written and run a quick bit of code, using all the individual xG values for each shot of the game. When entered in, if the game was played 10,000 times with those exact shots, United would win 7,230 times, with 485 losses and 2,285 draws in the simulation. A 72.3% win percentage. This shows it wasn’t a fluke that United won 2-0, they were comfortably the better side.
United had a PPDA of 15.03, compared to City’s 5.84. This shows us that we didn’t necessarily press very hard, allowing City a lot of time on the ball, hence their 72% possession throughout the game. The Blues also held the majority of the pitch territory with 25% of the match played in their third of the field. Despite this, they created nearly half the shots United did, as the Red Devils took advantage of their vulnerability to attacks on the break. Daniel James, despite making a few poor decisions on the ball, was a fantastic outlet throughout the match, using his pace to get in behind the back line and cause issues. Only 5% of City’s possession based attacks resulted in a shot, their lowest percentage ever in the PL (since the metric began in 2016) which further shows how well the team did to nullify their advances forward. One player who excelled defensively was Wan-Bissaka; 8 tackles and he was dribbled past 0 times. This season he has performed brilliantly when up against Sterling, proving his is an elite full back for the club.
Bruno Fernandes put in another great performance for his side yet again. 25 total passes with 13 of them being forwards, over half! As previously discussed, this is an incredibly high proportion of passes being forward, up there with the best in the world. He won 10 duels, had 4 interceptions, 3 key passes, 3 shots and 1 very clever assist to Anthony Martial; quick thinking and Tony being on the same wavelength allowed United to get ahead 30 minutes into the game. It was a brilliant chipped free kick, which Martial volleyed home first time before the defence could even react. This means in 5 league games, he has 5 direct goal contributions; our Portuguese magnifico! Brazilian midfielder Fred linked up with Bruno again more than any other player, and had a very good game in his own right once again. Shaw also continued his resurgence of form as a left centre back of the back 3; at the same time though, Williams struggled again as the left back, he was dribbled past 6 times and then in the second half was targeted as nearly two-thirds of City’s attacks came down his flank. McTominay also came off the bench to score a fantastic opportunistic goal. Ederson threw the ball out to open space in the dying moments, but no players in blue got on the end of it; McTominay hit it first time from 30 odd yards out into an empty net to send Old Trafford into raptures. His effort had an xG of 0.15!
We started in a 3-5-2, but above we can see it wasn’t completely rigid. From the average positions, it is evident Bruno played high throughout the game, even ahead of James. This could be seen throughout the game, as he would surge forward to instigate a high press and stifle their attempts from playing out of the back. Another highlight to note is how high Williams’ average position was, which could have contributed to him being caught out so many times throughout the game, he could’ve done with dropping slightly deeper nearer to Shaw. All in all though, it was an excellent game. The game plan from Ole was spot on, despite criticisms of him this season, he gets the big game tactics spot on.