Man Utd’s wretched season in numbers – their worst post-Fergie?

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14 Min Read
Man Utd’s wretched season in numbers – their worst post-Fergie?

Manchester United are on course to record their worst season in the Premier League era. These are the stats behind their alarming downfall.

Erik ten Hag could sink lower than David Moyes, sacked 10 months into his spell at Old Trafford with the club seventh in the table. United are eighth at present, with games against Arsenal, Newcastle and Brighton remaining.

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Based on current form, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that United go winless in their final games.

Ten Hag needs five points to avoid breaking the unwanted record of being the manager in charge of United’s worst season in the Premier League era. Ralf Rangnick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer currently hold that honour for 2021/22.

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The damning takeaway from these comparisons is that Ten Hag has been in the job for nearly two years now, and backed in the transfer market to the tune of £410m. Moyes did not enjoy such luxuries.

Ten Hag’s only saving grace is the prospect of the FA Cup final against Manchester City. Confidence of success is thin on the ground for that game, however.

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It was only 12 months ago that Ten Hag was presiding over what looked to be a promising revolution at United with a trophy and third-placed finish in his first season. So what’s happened?

Leaky defence

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Ashley Young described his former side’s defending as “shambolic” in Monday’s thrashing at Crystal Palace. It has been a common feature for United under Ten Hag this season.

They have conceded 55 goals in 35 league games this season. Going by their average, this United side are on course to let in more goals than any other in the Premier League era.

Considering they next play Arsenal, who have won 10 games by three or more goals in the league this season, the record could easily be broken on Sunday at Old Trafford – live on Sky Sports.

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United have shipped three or more goals in eight league games this season, too. That figure rises to 14 across all competitions.

Part of the issue behind United’s susceptibility to let goals in is the ease with which teams can play through them. This is reflected in the number of shots they face.

GRAPHIC

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In 2024, they have allowed 317 shots – more than any other side in the Premier League. That’s an average of more than 18 shots per game.

United have outperformed their Expected Goals Against by 9.48, more than any other side in the league. The second team in this metric, Liverpool, outperformed their xGa by 4.51.

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Jamie Carragher, who said United are one of the worst-coached teams in the league on Monday, has been critical of Ten Hag’s system all season. “They defend like a team I’ve never seen before,” he said in February. “They like to press high with a deep block.”

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Erik ten Hag insists he’s still the right man for the job

Ten Hag can point toward a raft of injury problems this season, particularly at the back, to explain why his side have conceded 22 more goals than the previous campaign. Stylistically, though, he is yet to provide a satisfactory explanation for their issues.

Easily beaten

Erik ten Hag's Man Utd drew 2-2 against Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday Night Football

Unsurprisingly, a team that ships so many goals tends to lose quite often. Ten Hag has already lost more games this season than any other United manager in the Premier League era.

They have lost 13 in the league this season, one more than in 2021/22, when the wheels came off for Solskjaer and Rangnick took over. Going further back, this is United’s most league defeats since 1989/90.

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Across all competitions, United’s 18 defeats is the most since 1977/78 (19).

It has been the nature of certain defeats which has made the season particularly painful for United.

Monday’s hopeless defeat at Palace was a new low, but this side was also comfortably beaten 3-0 at home by Bournemouth. A marginal offside prevented a late fourth, too. We must not forget the latest collapse in Premier League history at Chelsea, either.

That was all in the Premier League. United’s Champions League campaign, which ended after finishing bottom of their group, saw them throw away leads against Galatasaray and Copenhagen in the final 20 minutes and lose.

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United’s propensity for chaos is partly down to their inability to control games, contrary to what Ten Hag set out to do. Domination was the aim, but this is the lowest average possession United have had since records began.

Scoring problems

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United’s attack hasn’t been able to bail out Ten Hag this season amid an almost permanent injury crisis at the back. That’s clear from their minus three goal difference, the lowest of the top eight by a margin of 14.

As things stand, United have scored 52 goals across 35 games in the Premier League, three more than their worst in 2015/16 under Louis van Gaal. Even Van Gaal admitted he was sometimes bored by United’s play that season.

This doesn’t really tally with Ten Hag’s assertion that his side are one of the great entertainers of the Premier League.

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United have three games to improve on their goalscoring return, though. Six goals in their final three games would take them level with Ten Hag’s first season.

It will be little comfort after what has been a wretched season for United and one of the worst at Old Trafford since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

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