Falling to a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, Manchester United have left a lot to be desired following a disappointing start to the Premier League season.
A low-energy showing in what was arguably a lucky 1-0 victory over Wolves on the opening weekend, followed by the loss to Spurs, showed that Man United have been lacking in one key area in particular.
On X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, UtdArena posted the seconds per high-intensity runs for Spurs and United players during Saturday’s game.
Spurs blew United out of the water in terms of these statistics, with all five of the top spots overall being awarded to the home side.
Heung-min Son topped the list, breaking for just 44 seconds between each sprint, followed by Destiny Udogie (47 seconds), Dejan Kulusevski (49), Pedro Porro (53), and Pepe Sarr (56).
While United’s Alejandro Garnacho tied with Sarr at 56 seconds, the next Red Devils’ player to feature on the list was Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who trailed by eight seconds.
Save for Mason Mount, who posted an average of 65 seconds per sprint, Spurs’ midfield completely outpaced that of United, with Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro trailing the pack with 77 and 114 seconds respectively.
United’s backline was particularly sluggish, with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane taking the longest breaks of 133 seconds and 157 seconds respectively.
The lowest score for a Spurs player was Romero with 118 seconds per high-intensity run.
Overall, it comes as no surprise that Spurs’ average of 69 seconds outperformed United’s 89 seconds.
While the amount of time that a team takes between each high-intensity run is not always the main factor for success, it is a concern that is impossible to ignore when you consider the ambition that Erik ten Hag has for his team.
As reported by The Peoples Person, Ten Hag announced his plan to transform United into the world’s best transitional team.
To do so, his team needs to win the ball back as soon as possible after losing it, while also getting it to the opponent’s goal and creating a goalscoring opportunity as quickly as possible once possession is won back.
Effectively, the high-pressing and counter-pressing game that Ten Hag is trying to implement at United is aimed toward this venture.
As Coach Cam pointed out on X, United’s poor performance against Spurs in terms of seconds per high-intensity run is highly troubling, especially since the central characteristic of a “transitional team” is turning defence into attack at a rapid pace.
Perhaps the time has come for Ten Hag to abandon his experiment with Marcus Rashford as a centre-forward, particularly since he is more effective on the wing, while Jadon Sancho proved that he is more than capable of filling in as a false 9 during his impressive pre-season performances.
After all, returning these players to positions where they are most comfortable will enable them to put less effort into adjusting to a new position and more focus into working toward Ten Hag’s transitional team goals.