The Story So Far with Brutal Honesty.

Last updated : 12 October 2013 By Denzel

So United are enduring their shakiest start to the season in donkey’s years.  Even Ron Atkinson’s United’s teams had better starts than this.  In fairness, Ron’s teams would then fall apart in the most spectacular and fragile fashion. Something like United in the Derby versus City (4-1) a few weeks ago, and er, the lethargy and capitulation shown against West Brom (1-2) at Old Trafford the week after.

Desperately trying to make sense of this abysmal run of failure, one reaches for the Opta Stats to attempt to identify the kernel of these defeats.

Against City at the Etihad, United had the lions share of the possession (58% to 42%). Impressive! That tells us that United set out to retain possession, and they did.

United made 478 passes of which 80% were accurate in opposition half.

City made 334 passes of which 71% were accurate in opposition half.

United made more crosses into the box than City (25 to 22).

United won 55% of the aerial duels to City’s 45%.

Lets look at key match ups, say how Fellaini fared against Toure in midfield.

Fellaini made 65 passes to Toure’s 52!

Fellaini’s passing accuracy was 92% to Toure’s 86%. “Lies, all lies!” I hear you cry. I assure you they are not. And so does Opta.

Fellaini’s passing accuracy in the opposition half was 88.5%.

Toure’s passing accuracy in the opposition half was 80%.

United must have won so. They didn’t. What the Opta stats say, and what we saw were two of the most crazily incongruent pieces of textual and visual information to be assimilated by the human brain.

So what happened? Toure gave Fellaini a masterclass in how to run a premiership midfield.  Ashley Young squandered so much possession in the opposition half he should have been stoned to death in the tunnel by Ryan Giggs, instead, Giggsy expended his energy berating the officials. Young made 15 passes before he was taken off. His passing accuracy where it mattered was 50%.

That means he actually played for City for half his passes. Pellegrini was delighted with him. In the final third of the pitch where United should be at their most clinical and precise, Young was doing an audition for Manchester City. Aside from being profligate with possession, he made two crosses, neither of which hit a red shirt. 

In four Premiership matches, Young made 22 crosses. Only one reached a United player. Nuff said.

Now imagine Ozil in those positions. There! Point made! £42.5M looks like small money right now. United turned him down. He wanted to sign for United over Arsenal. Ooops!

Welbeck, an absolute marvel in an international shirt, looked like a spancelled donkey at the Etihad, squandering yet more possession in the final third.

And Rio, living legend, avid Tweeter and impressive Vlogger, his display against City was carcinogenic at best. Lapses in concentration, turned too easily, turned out fatal against a machine like Aguero. That performance wasn’t a blip either, it was more of the same against West Brom the following week.

A Glimmer of Hope: When Moyes realised the error of his ways, and took Young off and deployed Tom Cleverly, United looked much more industrious and assured in their forays into the City half. If the match actually started at the time of Cleverly’s introduction, United would have actually won 1-0, with a wonder free-kick from a revitalised Rooney. Sadly though that was not the case, the match started about 65 minutes before that!

Moyes left out Ferdy and Young against Sunderland. Thank you god for instilling sense.

Hopefully the international break will see Moyes working on protecting his back four with a competent and functioning midfield. Sense is needed. Fast!