Manchester United 3 vs 0 Watford – Match Review

A masterful display from United number 18 Bruno Fernandes propelled the club to a convincing 3-0 win over the Hornets on Sunday afternoon. Our new Portuguese magnifico pulled all the strings and had a hand in all 3 goals, one expertly taken by himself. After a very shaky first 15 minutes, which included a multitude of errors from numerous players, the team eventually began to settle down and gain possession of the ball, even if they didn’t dominate territory on the field for a vast majority of the game.

Manchester UnitedWatford
Possession58%42%
Shots217
Shots on Target92
Passing Accuracy80%74%
Tackles2115
Corners35
Manchester United vs Watford Match Statistics courtesy of fbref

For the game, United had an xG of 2.3 to Watford’s 0.3, suggesting it was a comfortable win for United due to the chances they created. The Red Devils were attacking a lot down the left hand side of the field, with actually 50% of them from that flank. This was due to Fernandes and Martial often drifting over to that side to create an overload alongside James who started out on that wing. I don’t think it can be overstated enough just how important Bruno was to the whole performance of the team. He was so progressive on the ball, looking to play forward at all times. 45.9% of his total passes were forwards! This is very high, even for an attacking midfielder, such a positive mindset showed on the rest of the team, and it is no coincidence that Daniel James had his best game for months. Another positive is how close Bruno Fernandes was throughout the game to Martial, which meant the striker was not as isolated as he usually is. This showed as the pass that created Martial’s goal was directly from Bruno as he played a lovely through ball for the Frenchman.

Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial

Another thing that was a marked improvement on the game was the location from where the shots were being taken. This season, United have taken nearly half their shots from outside the box, which generally are low chance shots. In this game however, 71% of their shots were taken from within the 18 yard box. Despite this domination of both possession and chance creation, they gave up territory of the pitch. Only 22% of the game was played in Watford’s third of the field. United were able to exploit the space in behind of Watford who played with a very high line, with all three of their goals coming from fast break opportunities; in fact United had 5 counter attacks, 4 of which resulted in a shot, a first since the Louis van Gaal days. Watford’s high press caused United all sorts of problems in the first 15 minutes, the pinnacle of which resulting in a mix up between Maguire and Matic which let Deeney through on goal, to only be expertly stopped by Luke Shaw, who himself had another excellent performance.

Victor Lindelof tackling Gerard Deulofeu of Watford

As we can see from the players’ average positions, all of James, Martial and Fernandes were playing on the left hand side of the pitch for a lot of the game as they overloaded on that side. Interestingly, Greenwood’s average position was very deep as he looked to get on the ball a lot, particularly in the first half. In the second half though, it seemed as though Solskjaer instructed Mason to hold out wider to the touchline, and this brought the benefit of allowing Bruno some more space centrally as less United bodies were occupying the space.

Overall, it was a good win for United, and aside from the first 15 minutes, it was quite a convincing performance from the Red Devils, with plenty of chance creation and good counter attacking sequences. Luke Shaw had another excellent game as he had a resurgence in form, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka was quietly consistent as he has been all season. Hopefully, we see more of this on Thursday!

Match Ratings (6 being the base, out of 10)

Manchester United vs Watford Preview 23rd February 2020

Luke Shaw battles Watford striker, Troy Deeney for the ball.

In the aftermath of United’s 1-1 draw with Club Brugge, it looks like Ole has decided on some changes already, well before kick off. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira both seem to have been left out of the matchday squads with no sign of injuries. This could be a result of both of the players poor performances earlier on in the week. Here is a predicted line up for United, based on the managers recent comments he has made and recent choices of players.

Predicted lineup for Manchester United vs Watford

We are likely to see the team start in a 4-2-3-1, with the relatively successful 3-5-2 formation having been reserved for away games only recently. After being rested midweek, it would be no surprise to see James back in the mix alongside Bruno, who impressed on his short cameo on Thursday. With United likely to maintain a lot of possession today, Greenwood will look to get on the ball on that RW and make plays with Martial and Fernandes. However, to beat Watford, this is the lineup I would go with instead.

Our preferred lineup vs Watford

There are not many changes from the predicted lineup to this one, the only changes being Williams in for Shaw at left back as he will provide more attacking impetus against a team that will look to sit deep. Also, Martial drops to LW with Ighalo upfront, this is done again with the idea we will have much more possession than Watford throughout the game, and Martial possesses more creativity than James so we would be wise to try and get the Frenchman on the ball as much as possible; then upfront Ighalo will not have to drop deep for the ball with Martial and Fernandes behind him, so he can concentrate on fulfilling his role as the lone striker. McTominay has returned from injury, but will likely start the match on the bench after 2 months away injured.

Manchester United players celebrating Anthony Martial’s goal vs Chelsea earlier in the season.

Watford’s style of play is predicated on a high proportion of long balls (16%) being played, so United will have to be wary of that when coming up against them. They have only scored 1 goal from a set piece this season, with the vast majority (71%) of their goals coming from open play. They are likely to match United with a 4-2-3-1 formation that will probably look something like this.

United will likely look to their new signing Bruno to provide much of the creative threat up against Watford, but it will need to come from more than just him if United hope to beat the Hornets, with the Red Devils struggling to break down lower table sides this season. They will want to avoid a repeat of the opposite fixture only 2 months ago, where Watford came out 2-0 victors.

Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Watford

Club Brugge 1 vs 1 Manchester United – Match Review

Anthony Martial scores the equaliser for Manchester United in the first half.

Not the most convincing of performances, especially in the first half, but it is not all doom and gloom. Though there were some under par performances from some of the players, others played well enough to carry the team through to the second leg. Throughout the game, United had 59.6% possession yet struggled to turn that domination of the ball into clear cut chances. This was highlighted by the fact 63% of United’s 16 shots were from outside of the penalty area! The goal that we scored further showed this; it was not a team goal fashioned by us, but instead Martial pressing and winning the ball high to go one and one with Simon Mignolet and slot calmly past the keeper. Whilst it was a very good individual goal, it was possibly the best chance of the game for the Red Devils, emphasising their struggles to create good chances throughout the game. 7 of the shots were blocked, Club Brugge defended well and managed to restrict us to pop shots at goal from distance.

United’s average positions for their starters throughout the match.

Ole opted to play with a 3-4-2-1 formation, but some of the personnel let the side down. For starters, Pereira (15) was supposed to be in the midfield two alongside Matic (31), but if you look at his average position on the field, he is literally on top of Juan Mata, who is one of the ‘2’ behind the striker. This created a few issues. Firstly, there was acres of space in behind him that Matic was trying to cover by himself, thus leading to the opposition being able to play through our midfield way too easily. This resulted in them being able to create quite a few good chances that they were just unable to put away. It also brought about attacking problems in the sense that Mata, Pereira and sometimes Lingard were all on top of each other occupying the same space, making it very difficult for the team to play with so many players in such a small area. Once Bruno came on and Fred came on for Pereira, the change in the team was evident for all to see. Bruno and Mata linked up brilliantly together for the remaining 14 minutes as players were now playing in their instructed positions. In the first 81 minutes, we had 8 shots. In the 14 minutes with Fernandes on the field, we had another 8 shots, lots of nice one-twos were played between them and they further showed their ability to play on a similar wavelength to each other. Another positive performance was from Nemanja Matic, who since returning from injury, has looked a rejuvenated player. Some of his standout numbers were his 9 ball recoveries, 8/10 duels won, 4/5 tackles won and he created 2 chances alongside these defensive numbers he put up. It was a performance worthy of man of the match, for players in red anyway.

Nemanja Matic, Manchester United midfielder, barking orders in the Europa League tie.

For the 3rd game running in all competitions, United’s xG was greater than their xG. The xG was calculated at 1.2, and their xGA at 1.4. This doesn’t bode well for how Manchester United are playing at the moment, it suggests we are currently finishing better than we should be, and this will probably have to correct itself and swing the other way sooner rather than later. For the goal Club Brugge scored, both Williams and Dalot defended the opportunity really poorly and then Romero was caught out of his goal for a well taken lob by Club Brugge man of the match, Dennis, who caused United all sorts of problems all night with his runs both without the ball in behind and with the ball at his feet.

Match Ratings (6 being the base, out of 10)

Chelsea 0 vs 2 Manchester United – Match Review

United forward, Anthony Martial scoring United’s opening goal of the night against Chelsea.

Two headers were enough to seal the deal for United in a controversial match, one excellently glanced into the bottom left corner (from a sumptious cross by right wing back Aaron Wan-Bissaka) by under scrutiny striker Anthony Martial, and the second goal being powered home by skipper Harry Maguire, being his long awaited first league goal for the club. In what was at times a tense affair full of VAR decisions, the Red Devils put in a solid performance, despite just having 38.8% possession, with three times the shots on target Chelsea had (3 to their 1). Our xG for the game was 0.8 to Chelsea’s 1.3, which suggests we were much more clinical than our counterparts on this occasion. It seems Solskjaer read the match preview we published, as the formation we suggested to play against Chelsea’s 4-3-3 was what was used, and it worked to great effect.

Manchester UnitedChelsea
Possession61%39%
Shots917
Shots on Target31
Passing Accuracy80%87%
Tackles1216
Corners89

Throughout the game, Chelsea had 17 shots in total. Interestingly, United blocked 10(!) of these shots to halt them in their flight, this was great evidence that United were able to restrict the blues to low quality chances, as they only ended the match with 1 shot on target. This was testament to the defence, with Eric Bailly having a particularly impressive return to the first team where he won 5/5 of his aerial defensive duels. Alongside him, Maguire also had a very good game, if not at times a contentious one. Relatively early on in the first half, Maguire and Batshuayi battled for the ball near the touchline and Maguire fell off the pitch, and then whilst on the ground, appeared to kick his leg out into Batshuayi into his groin area. The incident was very similar to Son of Tottenham’s red card earlier on in the season. However, when sent to VAR, it was decided not to be worthy of a card. The centre back went on to have a very strong game with 9 clearances (most in the game) and 8 recoveries. As we have spoken about previously, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is amazing defensively but has struggled going the other way, and on the surface yesterday might’ve been the same with only 29% of United’s attacks coming down his right flank. However, at 0-0, the wing back picked up the ball, surged forward before passing it to Fred and carrying on his run. He then received the ball back off of Fred, cleverly held off the Chelsea full back before swinging in a nearly inch perfect cross for Martial to get on the end of. Brilliant from Aaron.

United’s right wing back Aaron Wan-Bissaka tackling Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta.

Brazilian midfielder Fred had yet another stand out big game performance against Chelsea. Finishing the game with 83 touches, 1 key pass and 67% of his tackles, he continued his fantastic form as he continues to show why the Manchester club bought him for £47 million. He was as tenacious as usual, and added composure to the United midfielder. New signing Bruno Fernandes also put in a fantastic showing on only his second outing for the club, getting his first assist for the club with a brilliantly taken corner for Maguire to get on the end of. To finally see a player who is capable of taking corners that actually beats the first man, makes me as a United fan, very happy. He finished with 3 key passes, 2 shots and almost got his first goal with a beautifully struck free-kick that hit the base of the right goalpost. For his first game in the Premier League against a top 6 side, he impressed and showed how good he can become for United, showcasing his incredible game intelligence throughout the game.

Manchester United attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Up front, Anthony Martial has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from both pundits and fans as the goals have dried up since Marcus Rashford suffered a stress fracture halfway through January (more can be read about the Martial conundrum here). At the start of the game, it looked to be much of the same with the French striker being dispossessed easily multiple times. The only early sign of activity was a smart one-two played between Martial and Fernandes (an insight into the bond on the pitch they can form) which released Anthony into the box, but with the shot on his left foot, he dragged the shot wide. Then, just before half time, when Wan-Bissaka sent a cross into the box, he used his acceleration to get in front of the unaware Christensen to leap above the centre back and glance a well taken header into the bottom corner to break the deadlock. Martial’s xG for the entire game was 0.2, so he took his chance with both hands. There are criticisms to be made of Anthony Martial, but one that cannot be made is his performances against the top 6 sides. In his last 3 league matches against Chelsea, he has 4 goals; an impressive record for somebody who is criticised for not bagging enough goals. The sooner people realise United are better with Rashford AND Martial together, the better.

Manchester United striker Anthony Martial.

United were fortunate with a few strokes of luck with Maguire avoiding red, and a Chelsea goal being ruled out although unclear if it was the right decision. Despite all this, they played well, and even though there was room for improvement, it was a good game from the reds.

Match Ratings (6 being the base, out of 10)

Chelsea vs Manchester United Preview 17th February 2020

Manchester United winger Daniel James challenging Chelsea full-back Reece James in their Carabao Cup fixture earlier this season.

On 17th February 2020, Manchester United return to league action in a highly anticipated match-up against their London top 4 rivals, Chelsea. Currently, United sit 6 points behind Chelsea who occupy 4th place in the table. Usually, this would be the final Champions League spot, but in the wake of Manchester City’s competition ban, if the ban goes ahead, one would assume 5th place is enough for entry to Europe’s premier competition (a spot currently held by Tottenham Hotspur 5 points ahead of United, managed by former United coach Jose Mourinho). Either way, Monday’s game is an important one. Win, and United are within 3 points of the top 4. Lose, and they fall 9 points adrift of the side that call Stamford Bridge home.

Chelsea are expected to lineup in a 4-3-3 against the Red Devils, as they have in their recent games and in their previous match against United, the 2-1 win for the Manchester side in the Carabao Cup. The opposition are expected to lineup something like this:

With Chelsea likely try and play on the front foot at their own stomping ground, United would be wise to try and counter this. They could try playing in a 3-5-2(3-4-1-2) formation, similar to the one they used against Chelsea in the aforementioned cup tie they triumphed in. The 3-5-2(3-4-1-2) formation allows the team to be able to soak up pressure with the extra defender, but then on the counter, affords two high wide players in the wing backs, 3 midfielders who can help create and supply with one playing slightly ahead in the 10 role, and you have your 2 strikers even if one plays slightly deeper off of his counterpart. A starting XI for this formation could look something like: de Gea; Wan-Bissaka/Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof; Williams, Fred, Matic, Dalot; Fernandes; Martial, Greenwood/James. To play Greenwood would allow the team more link up play if they decide to play slightly more possession based, alternatively James could be utilised on the counter due to the raw pace that he offers. Then in the ‘5’, you would have the attacking impetus of Dalot on the right flank, and on the left side the effort levels of young Williams. In the centre of the park, Fernandes would provide you with the creativity and maintain the link to the attackers so they don’t become isolated, with Fred and Matic either side and slightly deeper to maintain and win possession among other tasks.


However, with Solskjaer’s tendency to play the 4-2-3-1 in the league, there is every chance that is the formation we see on the night. It would likely look something like this:

In this formation, there is the potential with the extra attacker to inflict damage on the counter. They would have to be careful with the wingers tracking back to support the full backs otherwise they could become isolated on either flank. Also, this formation hinges on the central of the attacking three (in this case Bruno Fernandes) playing well. He will have to make sure he drops into the midfield to prevent them being overrun by the Chelsea midfield 3; he will also have to make sure that on the ball he gets up the field to support the other attackers and maintain the link from midfield to prevent the attackers, particularly the striker Martial, from becoming segregated from the rest of the team. Chelsea do have a slight preference of attacking down their left side (40% of their attacks from this side), so Aaron Wan-Bissaka will have to be his usual alert self.

Type of GoalTotal Goals Scored
Open Play12
Penalty3
Set Piece1
Counter Attack0
Distribution of Chelsea league home goals 19/20, data courtesy of whoscored

As seen in the above table, 75% of Chelsea’s goals this season at home have come from open play and only 1 set piece goal, which suits United due to their worrying struggles this season defending from set pieces.

In conclusion, Mondays nights game has all the ingredients to be an exciting affair, especially considering the previous two encounters between the sides has seen 7 goals scored! If Manchester United want to win, they will have to be disciplined, the fullbacks and no 10 will need to be on top of their games too. Or Chelsea have an off night, doesn’t bother us as long as United win!

Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Man United

United – Can they run back to winning?

Manchester United right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka challenging Wolverhampton Wanderers forward, Diogo Jota.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as the manager of Manchester United, he has made it clear many times that he wants his team to ‘run the furthest in the league’ so that they were more akin to the ‘United teams of old’. He emphasised how much he wanted us to outrun our opponents and press other teams off the pitch. Fast forward to now, the winter break of the next season, has that desire of his come to fruition? Or has it failed to materialise? Time to look at the numbers.

Manchester United midfielder, Fred, tackling Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane.

As of the winter break, United have a PPDA of 9.27 (if you’d like to know more about PPDA, check out this page here). To put that number into context, this ranks the Old Trafford outfit as the 8th best pressing side in the league, sandwiched behind Everton and just in front of Arsenal. Last season, United’s PPDA was 10.49, so it has got better by just over 1.2 from last season, the season prior to that was 10.25. So there has been a slightly noticeable increase in the pressing numbers. Interestingly, when home and away figures are looked at separately, they do definitely differ. At home, United press with a PPDA of 8.45, 5th best in the league. When away however, this then drops to 10.39, back to 8th in the league. This means that United have a bigger delta between how intense they are at home compared to when they play away. They’re more willing to allow the opposition possession when playing on the road, whereas Manchester City have the exact same PPDA of 8.32, regardless of if it is a home or an away game. Even more so when we look at Leicester and Liverpool, who actually increase their impressive pressing statistics whilst away from the King Power Stadium and Anfield respectively. This could, in part, explain why United have lost 3 times more games away than at home this season (6 losses away to 2 losses at home); in the same vein it is no surprise to see that at Old Trafford, our goal difference is 17 goals better off than our away record.

Manchester United have lost 2 of their 8 games lost whilst playing at Old Trafford this season.

Looking at pressing alone, 8th place in the league would not suggest that the squad are the hardest workers in the league, as Solskjaer so demanded back when he got the job; and when they do run further and press more, they win more and lose less. There has been slight improvement since last season, but still not a massive jump relative to the the other teams in the league. Of course, it is not a direct correlation, there will be other factors involved in the process. Nonetheless, it is food for thought.

What is going on with United in front of goal?

What is going on at Old Trafford at the moment? Why are they struggling to score goals against ‘lesser’ teams that any United fan would expect their team to beat with relative ease. Is it the players? The coach? A bit of both? You may think back to the run when Ole was still the caretaker manager and he had first joined. United had gone their first 12 league games under his tutelage without a defeat. They had a goal difference of +20 in this string of results too. If we look closer at the numbers though, the teams xG scored was 25.6, and their xG against was 13.7 (for a more in depth look at how xG works and what it means, click here); giving them an expected goal difference off 11.9, 8.1 goals less than the players actually scored. It is not normal for a team to outperform their xG for any sustained period of time, so it was almost inevitable that eventually we would have this downturn of form to negate the over-performance earlier. You might wonder when the club started to under perform exactly. Was it after the infamous night in Paris? Was it the start of this current season we are in now? Well, if we look back to the last 5 games of the previous season, they had an xG of 5.7, however only scored 2 goals. The xGA was 6.1, yet they conceded 10 goals.

SituationGoals ScoredxG
Open Play2627.98
From Corner45.83
Direct Free Kick01.58
Set Piece12.40
Penalty56.85
Our xG scored for 2019/20 League Season. Stats courtesy of understat.

As we can see in the above table, we have under performed compared to our xG from every single type of situation on the pitch this season. Whether it is a penalty, corner or open play, our finishing is below average. Our total xG for this season is 42.56, our actual goal tally being 36. The three players who are under performing against their xG the most are Maguire, Pogba and Lingard. Pogba’s numbers, though having not played much, are influenced by a missed penalty. Even Marcus Rashford, who was by all accounts having a stellar season up until his stress fracture, is the only player who is a top 5 goal scorer in the league yet still under their xG, meaning he still isn’t finishing his chances at the expected rate. In fact, in the entire United squad, only 4 players are performing better than their xG would suggest: Martial, McTominay, Greenwood and Lindelof. Aside from these 4 players, every other member of the squad is performing negatively against their xG. Greenwood is actually outperforming his xG by 2.30; very impressive for an 18 year old, and Martial surpassing his should not be a surprise, he has been the most clinical striker in the Premier League the past 2 full seasons.

Young striker Mason Greenwood celebrating a goal against AZ Alkmaar earlier this season.

All the numbers and statistics aside on expected goals and the like, if we just use the eye test and watch Manchester United play, why we struggle to score from open play becomes even more obvious. Quite often when the ball is recovered and the team have possession, the ball is progressed up the field until around the edge of the opposition box. Then we are subject to the mind numbing exercise of watching the players pass the ball from wing to wing in such a draining manner. This usually carries on until we either get frustrated and take a long shot, or the other team press the players ferociously, so the ball is moved back to the centre backs and the cycle restarts. The problem is the players either don’t want to or can’t make incisive passes, one that break the opposition lines or shift defences. They play right into the hands of the defenders.

(Left to Right) Maguire, Fred and Lingard looking dejected after conceding against West Ham.

Our lack of a specialist set-piece taker has also damaged our set piece scoring capabilities a lot too. From these dead ball situations, we are 4.81 goals behind our xG! This is nearly 2.5 times more than we are behind our xG from open play. Not having someone on corners who can consistently deliver well placed balls past the first man, and someone regularly on the pitch who can take a decent free kick has massively affected United’s goal scoring capabilities this season (to see where United rank in the division for set piece goals and others, click here)

New signing, Bruno Fernandes unveiled alongside Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

To conclude, unfortunately there is no obvious glaring solution to United’s goal scoring problems this season. The acquisition of Bruno Fernandes at the end of January will hope to improve on the set piece conundrum with his expertise in that department. His eye for a pass from open play, and Pogba’s impending return will also surely help, but after so many months of performing so badly in front of goal, can we reasonably expect these two players to change the whole outlook for the team. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see.


Jadon Sancho – Answer to our RW Issues?

2019/20 League Stats Only

On 12th Feb 2020, the internet was strife with speculation that Jadon Sancho had decided that he wanted to move to Manchester United this summer, and that United were preparing an offer for the 19 year old. Sky Germany even reported the youngster ‘would leave Borussia Dortmund this summer’ with United leading the chase for his signature. Currently, the Red Devils lack a starting right winger, someone to nail down that flank, create from that side and form a partnership with our right back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. First of all, let us look at the player in some more detail. The Englishman is a right footed attacking midfielder, capable of playing on either flank or through the middle.

PositionAppsGoalsAssists
Right Attacking Midfielder1036
Left Forward654
Substitute511
Central Attacking Midfielder332
Left Attacking Midfielder311
Right Forward211
Sancho 2019/20 Stats by Playing Position

His greatest strengths are his key passing, averaging 2.57 per 90 minutes of league action (which means he is a very good creator and has mastered the art of the through ball in particular), his excellent dribbling skills (4.09 dribbles completed per 90) which he constantly uses alongside his pace to get inside or outside of the opposing fullback to fashion a chance for himself or a teammate. One thing that stands out about his play, is his incredible decision making for a player of his experience; he always seems to be able to delay his pass perfectly to the right moment depending on how the defence is moving in that situation. His ability to read the movements of both his fellow attackers and the opposing defenders is truly elite. The game intelligence he possesses suggests a very mature player despite his young age. Since joining Dortmund, he has proven his ability to time his runs to perfection to allow him space and time when receiving the ball for a shot, his turn of acceleration also massively helping him in this regard. As the above table shows, this season he has played the majority of his games as the right attacking midfielder of a 4-2-3-1, which coincidentally Man United have used in 22 of their 25 league games so far. In the 10 games at this position, he has recorded 9 direct goal contribution, a brilliant return. His versatility is also displayed though, with his excellent stats as a left forward, 9 goal involvements in 6 games, emphasising his ability to play multiple positions to a very high standard. In United’s 4-2-3-1, he would fit in at either of the wide attacking roles, and with Marcus Rashford seemingly shining on the left side, Sancho would have the right flank all to himself to make his own. His directness from his dribbling abilities and his elite level game IQ would no doubt benefit Manchester United’s attack, and that includes aiding Aaron Wan-Bissaka as he would have someone to overlap/underlap when he makes runs forward which would help mask his current attacking vulnerabilities. So to summarise, Sancho is already an elite level winger, with game IQ and vision beyond his years with dribbling and finishing ability to boot, so would make an excellent signing for Manchester United and there would not be many better players available for the role than him.


Anthony Martial – Misunderstood?

On the 25th August 2019, Anthony Martial was injured for Manchester United, leaving Marcus Rashford as the club’s sole ‘experienced’ forward. For the following 2 months and 7 games, Marcus registered 1 goal against Leicester (a penalty), and 1 assist against Arsenal. In this period, some of the fans began to turn on him as he was struggling for production. On the 20th October, Anthony Martial returned to the line-up and very quickly, the pair began to produce. Marcus went from 2 goal involvements in 7 games without Toto, to his first 7 games back with him where our number 10 was involved in 7 goals or assists, plus he received 2 MOTM awards. Anthony Martial in his first 7 games back, registered 3 goals, 2 assists and 1 MOTM award. It is obvious that both players perform better alongside the other; Martial playing as a false 9, dropping deeper and demanding the ball to feet benefits greatly from runners around him that surge ahead whilst he drops deep, exactly what Marcus is brilliant at. Then, on 15th January 2020, Marcus Rashford suffered a double stress fracture in his lower back. In the 5 games since this injury, Martial has registered 1 goal and 1 assist, both in the 6-0 win over Tranmere Rovers. Again, as with Rashford, some sections of the fanbase are beginning to turn on our Frenchman, showing vitriol and impatience with the forward. What is more of an issue, is the lack of squad depth, which means if one of the 2 forwards are injured, the other struggles as there is no one to fill their strike partners void. Fans point to the Liverpool loss and Martial’s miss and claim he isn’t good enough for the club, as seen with Roy Keane. The reality is Martial had to fashion that chance himself, due to the lack of creativity in the team, something that will hopefully improve with Fernandes recently joining and Pogba returning soon; our number 9 won’t be relied on to create his own chances with Rashford out. Also, the claim he isn’t a good enough finisher is a poor one, with Martial finishing the last 2 PL seasons as the forward with the highest shot conversion rate in the league. So far this season, Martial is averaging 0.47 non penalty goals per 90, Rashford is currently at 0.49 non penalty goals per 90; nearly no difference between them. All in all, Anthony Martial is a fantastic striker, who suits our style of play very well, he just needs the patience from the fans he has earned, just as Rashford needed it earlier this season to turn his form around.


United Shot Locations

This season, Manchester United have averaged 14.9 total shots in the PL. This is enough to place them 4th in the division for total shots. When we only look at shots taken outside of the box, they rocket up to 1st place with 7.2 shots a game, meaning 48.32% of their total shots are from outside the box. As a comparison, Manchester City take 6.3 shots from outside the box (the 2nd most shots from outside of the box, nearly a whole shot less than United) from 19.9 total shots, meaning 31.66% of their shots are from outside the box, a massive difference between the 2 clubs. For shots taken within the six-yard box, United rank 10th, with 1.0 shots a game (6.71% of our total), so bang in the middle of the table. Finally, the Red Devils have taken, on average, 6.7 shots a game inside the penalty area; 11th in the league. For comparison, Man City take 11.4 shots from the penalty area a game. These 2 figures regarding shots from the six-yard box and penalty area strongly suggest that United like to shoot from distance very regularly. This is because they struggle to break down teams that sit in a low block, passing it side to side in front of the opposition box until someone decides to shoot from range, Pereira and Fred being culprits of this. This is a combination of lack of patterns being coached into the players to break down low blocks, and also because some players have poor decision making and frequently choose the wrong option as we approach the opponent’s goal.