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220 Shots, 18 Goals – Are Manchester United The Unluckiest Team In The Premier League?

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Jose Mourinho’s struggles at Manchester United continued this weekend, as they were held to 1-1 draw by West Ham at Old Trafford. A single point on the night made it United’s worst start to a season since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2013.

The Red Devils, under the Portuguese manager, have managed to pick up only 20 points this season after 13 games and occupy the sixth position in the league table, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea. His side has now drawn four consecutive games at the Theatre of Dreams, the longest winless run at home for United since 1990.

Speaking after the game, midfielder Ander Herrera blamed bad luck for United’s continued poor run.

He said, “‘Their keeper was the best one more time, that happened against Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal. We don’t know what we have to do to win.”

And United academy product Jesse Lingard seemed to agree with the Spaniard’s assessment, as he said:

“We’re playing really well but we keep drawing. The performances are there – it’s just putting the ball in the back of the net. It’s four draws in a row with numerous chances – the luck’s not there at the moment.”

Last week after the 1-1 draw at home against bitter rivals Arsenal, manager Jose Mourinho also seemed to believe that it was the luck factor that is holding back his team.

Andre Marriner waved away Antonio Valencia's appeal for a penalty against Arsenal

“I am really happy with the team, but at the moment I consider us the unluckiest team in the Premier League because it is the reality,” he told Sky Sports speaking after the game. “If you analyse the last three matches. Against Stoke we have to win 5-0 or 6-0 and we draw. Against Burnley we have to win 5-0 or 6-0 and we draw and today we have to win 2-0 or 3-0 and we draw.”

How accurate are the United players and manager in their assessment? Can this poor run of form be put down to bad luck? Or is it their own making? Let’s analyse.

United, under Mourinho, have had a whopping 220 attempts at goal in 13 league games, more than half of which have been from inside the box (128), at an accuracy of 47%. But they have managed to get the ball past behind the goalkeeper only 18 times, a goal conversion rate of only 8.18%. Meaning United need 12.22 shots per goal.

On comparison with their rivals, the reading does not make a good one for United:

Team Total Shots Goals Scored Shots per goal
Arsenal 188 28 6.71
Chelsea 208 29 7.17
Manchester City 228 29 7.86
Liverpool 252 32 7.88
Tottenham 221 18 12.28

As can be inferred from the above numbers, Arsenal have been the most prolific in front of goal, while the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and City have a healthy conversion rate. Only Tottenham are worse off than United among the top six when it comes to shots per goal ratio.

While most of these chances have gone begging mainly due to the wastefulness of the United players, they also have had to go up against goalkeepers in top form. Stoke City goalkeeper Lee Grant was at his best as he rescued the Potters with eight saves in their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, while former United man Tom Heaton’s performance in the 0-0 draw with Burnley was even better. The 30-year-old shot-stopper made 11 saves in total. And over the weekend, Darren Randolph stood like a wall in between the goal and United players, making 7 saves to deny them victory.

United have also managed to hit the frame of the goal six times this season – twice each in their draws against Stoke City and Burnley, while Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit the bottom of the post on Sunday against the Hammers.

Paul Pogba show his frustration during the draw at Old Trafford

Injuries have also played a part in United’s disappointing campaign so far. Mourinho, in recent weeks, has had to make to with a makeshift backline due to injuries to key personnel like Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly. According to physioroom.com, United have suffered 27 injuries throughout this season, eclipsed only by strugglers Sunderland (30).

Mourinho and refereeing controversies always go hand in hand. And there have been quite a few incidents this season where decisions that could have gone United’s way have not been given. The most notable of those being the denied penalty claim after Claudio Bravo’s lunge on Wayne Rooney in the Manchester derby.

Another key decision went against Mourinho’s men against Watford when Anthony Martial was hacked off the ball by an overly aggressive Miguel Britos but was not given as a foul by the referee. Watford went on to score their first goal from that position as United lost the game 3-1.

While Mourinho will be quick to point fingers at the referees, as he always is, for his side’s troubles, wrong officiating calls are a part and parcel of the game. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.

He and his team need to realise the roots of the problems lie deep within. United may have been unfortunate going up against some brilliant goalkeeping heroics in the past few weeks, but at this level, they need to be more clinical in front of goal. Call it bad luck or blame it on the misfiring players, but United have a serious issue at the top and Mourinho needs to address it at the quickest if he wants to salvage something from a season that seems to be heading nowhere for United.