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A year on from Solskjaer appointment, United still have a lot of room to improve

A lack of clean sheets and a low ratio of converted chances underline the struggles Manchester united have endured over the course of the last 12 months.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

IT IS EASY to lose track of time in these strange days of lockdown and isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now it seems an eternity ago, yet it was only a year to the day – March 28, 2019 – that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as Manchester United’s full-time manager.

The Red Devils had won 14 of their 19 games in all competitions during Solskjaer’s temporary stint, including a famous Champions League last-16 second-leg comeback at Paris Saint-Germain.

Rio Ferdinand had demanded United hand his fellow club icon a blank contract to sign and the good times were, it seemed, on their way back to Old Trafford.

And yet after all that early promise, it has been a year largely of stagnation. 12 months of two steps forward, then a couple back. Those early successes seem like halcyon days, although there were encouraging signs prior to the suspension of the Premier League as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Below, we have taken a look at how Solskjaer’s United compare to the other “big six” (Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal) over the past 12 months in the Premier League with the help of Opta data.

If Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United knocked Liverpool ‘off their f***ing perch’, then Jurgen Klopp’s Reds have conquered all in front of them in their bid to return to it.

Liverpool’s wait for a Premier League title may have been frustratingly held up, but over the past year they have accumulated an astonishing 103 points from 36 top-flight matches.

That is 22 more than Manchester City, second in our table for this span, have accumulated.

United are a whopping 50 points adrift of Liverpool’s accumulation having played a game more. Indeed, their tally of 53 is only the seventh best and is fewer than Wolves (56) and Crystal Palace (55) have amassed.

Chelsea have managed 63 and are fourth behind Leicester City (64), but United have amassed more points than both Tottenham (51) and Arsenal (50).

A concern for United fans is the fact they have won just 14 of the 37 league games played during Solskjaer’s permanent stewardship thus far.

Of our “big six”, only Arsenal (12) have triumphed in fewer outings, with Tottenham on the same number and Chelsea (18), City (26) and Liverpool (34) all ahead.

In the same period, only Spurs – now managed by the man Solskjaer replaced, Jose Mourinho – have lost more games, with 14 to United’s 12.

The January signing of Bruno Fernandes has gone some way to helping United’s creativity void in midfield, though their return of 51 goals is significantly lower than Liverpool (85) and City (84).

Only the Gunners (50) have managed fewer, with Chelsea (64) and Spurs (57) both ahead of Solskjaer’s side in this bracket.

It comes as little surprise that United also struggle in terms of shot conversion (9%). Chelsea (10%), Spurs, City, Arsenal (all 12%) and Liverpool (15%) all perform better.

It is not necessarily for a lack of effort. United have registered more shots (544) and shots on target (203) than both Arsenal (411 and 141) and Spurs (486 and 169).

Defensively, United stand up reasonably well against their five major rivals. They have conceded fewer goals (44) than each of Arsenal (48), Spurs (47) and Chelsea (45). Liverpool (25) and City (33), unsurprisingly, lead in that department too.

But United have not been able to keep too many clean sheets. Indeed, they have denied opposition sides from scoring on just eight occasions. Only Tottenham – with seven - have a worse record.

United have faced 142 shots on target, which is less than Spurs (180) and Arsenal (185).

Solskjaer will  hope to see these numbers improved and his side’s resurgence continue whenever sport is given the green light again.

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The42 Team

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