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What do the numbers say about Jose Mourinho and Manchester United?

Saturday 13th October 2018
Jose Mourinho is confident in his methods. Ben Mayhew's analysis on Experimental-361 suggests they might be Manchester United's problem.
Jose Mourinho is confident in his methods. Ben Mayhew's analysis on Experimental-361 suggests they might be Manchester United's problem.

Elements in this original image were used with license from PNG Arts or existed in the public domain. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. -- All scattergraph images are used under license from Experimental-361. All renderings were acquired in the public domain.


Manchester United's struggles dominate the Premier League news cycle despite three other powerful clubs topping the table with identical undefeated records.

Defeats to Brighton and Tottenham in the opening weeks weren't an aberration. After bouncing back to loot and pillage Burnley at Turf Moor and burst Watford's early-season bubble at Vicarage Road, United dominated Swiss champions Young Boys away in the Champions League before the Reds had a devilish time in their next four games. They allowed Wolves to level at Old Trafford, fell behind to Frank Lampard's Derby County in the EFL Cup, fighting back only to lose on penalties to the Championship club. West Ham bullied them before the Stretford End. Valencia eked out a nil-nil draw in the Theatre of Dreams. United went winless in four games for the first time since December 2013 under David Moyes.

On the eve of their next match, a rumour broke that Jose Mourinho awaited the sack regardless of the result. The first ten minutes gave credibility to the gossip. Rafa Benitez built on Lampard's blueprint. Newcastle struck twice in the opening ten minutes, forcing Mourinho to throw caution to the winds. His attack-heavy lineup put three past Martin Dubravka in the final 20. The desperate onslaught revealed how dangerous the talented squad could be when in the right mindset. Supporters went into raptures.

It was a reprieve for the Portuguese. No board could possess the nerve to fire a manager after such a dramatic comeback. No one believes United's problems lie behind them, however.

On the other hand, self-described lapsed astrophysicist and head of data analysis at the PA, Ben Mayhew, recently offered up some interesting information suggesting the end times may not be descending upon Manchester's red half, after all. On his football blog, Experimental-361, he posted a column detailing where each Premier League squad stood in relation to the competition in four categories: shots taken v faced per match, attacking effectiveness, defensive effectiveness and expected goals.

In three of the four categories, United aren't too far from fans' expectations. It's the fourth category that's most concerning for both club and manager. Take a look.

Manchester United Team Stats
Manchester United News
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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