Are Manchester United Overachieving Heading into the Manchester Derby?

Are Manchester United Overachieving Heading into the Manchester Derby?

Saturday, 10 November, 2018 - 08:45
Manchester United's Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera. Photograph: Isabella Bonotto/AFP/Getty Images
London- Daniel Levitt
For Manchester United, some of the season’s opening chapters have been bleak. Despite a morale-boosting win against Juventus on Wednesday, in the Premier League the Red Devils find themselves nine points off leaders Manchester City, who they face on Sunday in the 177th edition of the Manchester derby.

But as bad as the first three months have been for United, José Mourinho’s men will enter the Etihad Stadium having actually exceeded expectations so far – at least by one measure.

According to expected points — the metric that calculates how many points a team should have earned from each game — United have collected one more point than expected from their first 11 league matches.

Expected points are calculated through expected goals, another advanced metric that’s made its way around the game in recent years, and has been the center of much contentious debate over its use.

Expected goals — or xG — assigns a quantitative value to every shot on goal, based on the quality of the assist, angle of the shot and distance to the goal. Every shot’s xG in a game is totaled and compared against the opponent’s xG, and an “expected winner” is then established and the expected points distributed. This explainer from Opta should help.

Expected goals isn’t for everyone, and since its recent emergence into the mainstream, Sky Sports’ Jeff Stelling has been just one of the statistic’s notable critics.

It does have its uses, though. For one, it provides a snapshot of how well a team has played and, perhaps more importantly, it sheds light on why a team has over- or underachieved. As it pertains to United, their goal difference is three worse than expected goals says it should be.

United have taken the same number of shots compared to the same point last season, but their xG on those shots is greater by about 2%, according to Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis at Gracenote. That means United should have scored four more goals than last season, but have actually scored one fewer.

Mourinho’s defense is worse. Gleave said that United are surrendering almost two goal attempts per game more than last season, and should have conceded nine fewer goals than they have.

The club’s board announced that up to £100m could be available in the January transfer window, which Mourinho has already indicated that a center-back and goalscoring forward are at the top of his shopping list. City meanwhile have conceded just four goals in their 11 league games.

Last month, the Guardian looked at how well the “Special One” has spent £360m during his time at Old Trafford, and the record is mixed. Eric Bailly has featured in just five league games so far this time around, and has yet to be involved in a clean sheet. Victor Lindelöf, another £30m center-back signing, has been in and out of the starting XI since his arrival, though he’s performed well thus far this season.

Whether it’s more disposable money or the manager that’s behind their superiority, City appear to have spent their money far more wisely, including £105m on defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte. City have also been far more prolific in front of goal, knocking in 33 so far, including four by Guardiola’s latest signing, Riyad Mahrez.


(The Guardian)

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