How do Manchester United catch City

Using expected goals (xG), which is a statistic used to assess individual chances and whether they should have resulted in a goal, it is possible to identify how the Premier League table should look. This metric assesses the types of chances for and against each team in every game and determines how many points should have been received. This then results in an expected points statistic for each team in the Premier League based on chances for and against.

Understat.com analysed over 200,000 types of shots across the top five leagues in Europe. It showed that Manchester United’s games expected points after 32 games was 54.05, which would leave them level on points with Arsenal in sixth, but they currently sit on 71 points in second place.

At a high level it appears that Manchester United are performing way above expectations. Their XG (-9.70) is 53.30 as opposed to scoring 63 goals and their expected goals against (xGA +13.51) is 38.51 as opposed to only conceding 25.

In previous blogs, I highlighted how David De Gea is the main reason behind the impressive XGA stat. The defensive unit are still conceding chances but the opposition is being thwarted by a world class goalkeeper. To catch Manchester City next season strengthening the defensive unit with a world class centre back would reduce the amount of chances being conceded and reduce the pressure on David De Gea.

After the Manchester Derby, it could also be argued that a world class left back in the shape of David Alaba or Marcelo is needed as the defensive frailties of Ashley Young were highlighted as he was lucky not to concede a penalty. Although, could Jose Mourinho go against type and invest in a young wonderkid at Craven Cottage and mould Ryan Sessegnon into a world class left back.

Furthermore, even though Manchester United’s are performing above expectations in xG they are still a long way behind Manchester City who have scored 90 goals as opposed to Manchester United’s 63. To continue to improve their expected points, they need to invest in creativity to improve the quality of chances they are creating. The xG stat of -9.70 is one of the highest in the Premier League showing that the strikers can convert chances but the lack of chances being created is particularly worrying.

To fully mount a title challenge next season, increasing goal scoring opportunities through investing in a creative midfielder or pushing Paul Pogba further forward (as discussed last week) is paramount. Equally important is reducing the amount of goal scoring chances against them to reduce the pressure on David De Gea. While the statistics show that Manchester United are performing above expectations it is not enough to overthrow Manchester City’s title parade.

About the Author

James Curran
I'm a keen football enthusiast supporting Manchester United and love to write about tactics and analysis.