Comparison between Louis van Gaal‘s and David Moyes’ seasons as Manchester United manager have been doing the rounds this week.
With United equal on 37 points after 21 games this season in 2014/15, just like they were at the same stage in 2013/14, on the surface it looks like not much has changed under Van Gaal.
However, a deeper look at the stats thanks this excellent infographic from the Premier League paint a different picture altogether, and not a wholly positive one.
It’s no surprise to see United have dramatically improved their ball retention under Van Gaal. Possession based build-up play is a fundamental aspect of Van Gaal’s style when it is working properly but at the same time, United have also completed more long balls in 2014/15, which is indicative of a lack of plan B when things aren’t working as has been the case on many occasion this year.
However, the most startling stats surround the threat which United’s passing poses. Despite having over 1,100 more passes this season, United have actually had less passes in the final third in 2014/15 (3,078 compared to 3,183 in 2013/14) than they did at the same stage last year.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and Van Gaal’s United is most certainly a work in progress but something needs to improve.”
That stat is telling. It shows how sterile United’s passing has been. For all the possession, there has been less shots, a lower goals per game average, less goals and less attacking action in the final third. After adding so much talent in the summer, that’s a genuine worry.
United have been brilliant going forward in some games yet diabolical in others. That consistency is needed if a top four spot is to be achieved and as United have won 80% of their games when using a 4-4-2 diamond, in comparison to just 36% using the 3-5-2, maybe a formation re-think could alleviate much of United’s current plight.