After a difficult start to the season, which has seen United record just three wins from their opening ten games, it appears the Louis van Gaal revolution is not quite going to plan. There are positive signs on the pitch, but here are 10 statistics which make for damning reading…
#1 Worst league start since 1986/87
United’s points tally from their opening ten games is their worst since 1986/87, when a series of bad results saw Ron Atkinson sacked and replaced by Sir Alex Ferguson.
#2 Better start under Moyes
The Red Devils were four points better off at this stage last season under David Moyes and had secured two more victories than this campaign from the opening ten fixtures. United are 11 points behind where they were after ten games in 2012/13- Sir Alex Ferguson’s final title-winning season.
#3 Number of injuries
One excuse van Gaal can point to is the number of injuries and changes he’s had to make to his side so far this season. Marcos Rojo’s shoulder injury became the 35th casualty United have suffered since the Dutchman took over, and Michael Carrick became the 31st player United have used this season when he came on against Manchester City on Sunday.
#4 Summer spending spree
The transfer window just gone saw United spent £150 on a wealth of attacking talent, including breaking the British transfer record to bring in Angel di Maria for £60m. The side which lined up in the derby on Sunday was the most expensive in Premier League history at £241m. And yet the team looks increasingly vulnerable at the back and failing to show its potential going forward.
#5 Attacking stats similar to last season
It’s claimed David Moyes slowed United’s play down and Louis van Gaal was the right manager with an attacking philosophy to return the team to playing the Manchester United way. With the attacking talents he’s brought in you’d expect the stats to confirm this. Yet they don’t. The stats are strikingly similar but edged in Moyes’ favour. Last season United had scored 17 goals compared to 16. They recorded marginally higher possession, created more chances and had a more successful conversion rate under Moyes. Van Gaal’s United do have a 1.1% better pass accuracy rate however.
#6 Central defence issues
United’s four first choice central defenders are all out of this weekend’s game against Crystal Palace. Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo are all injured while Chris Smalling is suspended. The inexperienced Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair could line up at the back, although Michael Carrick may be asked to play out of position once again.
#7 Strikers underperforming
Sergio Aguero with ten goals. Diego Costa with nine. Saido Berahino with seven. In contrast, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Angel di Maria have scored nine goals between them this campaign. For a team with an embarrassment of riches up front, they are not scoring enough, although more does need to be done to provide them with opportunities from the midfield.
#8 Red cards
United have had three players sent off so far this season and five in 2014. Conforming to the team’s shape and game plan is made much more difficult when going down to ten men.
#9 ‘Easy’ start to the season
No Premier League game is a walkover, but some of the teams United have dropped points against raises some questions. The 0-0 draw at Burnley, the opening day defeat to Swansea City and most notably throwing away a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 against Leicester.
#10 Away record
United have not won an away match under van Gaal and you have to go back to April the 5th to find their last away victory in a 4-0 win over Newcastle at St James’ Park. It’s a statistic that needs to change and fast.
BUT there a signs to be positive…
Louis van Gaal is notorious for having poor starts with the clubs he has previously managed. When the Dutchman took over at Bayern Munich in 2009 the team were seventh after 13 games with just five victories. They went on to win the league that season as well as reaching the Champions League final.
It’s also important to note that unlike last season, United’s rivals for the Champions League spots are also enduring difficult starts. Everton are level on points and both Liverpool and Tottenham sit just one point ahead. Arsenal in fourth are only four points in front.
It was at the end of November last season that United went on a run of four winless games which they never recovered from. There are plenty of signs that this season United are much improved, but they need to turn performances into points sooner rather than later.