Monday, 9 February 2015

Reviewing Manchester United Performance - Real Life KPIs Part 2

As a few weeks have passed since my last review of Manchester United's performance in this year's Premier League.  An overview of the season so far reveals some interesting facts:

Southampton went to third position in mid-January, following their win at Old Trafford.  Southampton finished eighth last season, and 14th in the season before that.  This is their first season with new manager Ronald Koeman.  Perhaps some analysis on his performance is needed, another time perhaps. :-)

Southampton enjoyed their first win in 27 years in the league at Old Trafford on 11 January.  Their fifteen previous visits were two draws (1999, 2013) and thirteen wins for Manchester United. Conversely, United had won their last five at home and missed out on the chance for a ninth win in the league – which was their total for home wins in the whole of last season.

So let's take a look at Louis Van Gaal's performance, as at 9 February 2015, and compare it, as usual, with David Moyes (the 'chosen one'), Alex Ferguson (2012-13) and Alex Ferguson (1986-87, his first season).


Horizontal axis - games played
Vertical axis - cumulative points
Red - AF 2012-13
Pink - AF 1986-87
Blue - DM 2013-2014
Green - LVG 2014-15 (ongoing)

The first thing to note is that LVG has improved his performance recently, and is now back above the blue danger line (David Moyes' performance in 2013-14, which is the benchmark for 'this will get you fired').

However, LVG's performance is still a long way below the red line left by Alex Ferguson in his final season, so let's briefly investigate why.


Under LVG, Manchester United have drawn 33% of their league games this season, compared to just 13% for Alex Ferguson's 2012-13 season.  This doesn't include the goal-less draw against Cambridge United in the FA Cup, which is a great example of Man Utd not pressing home their apparent advantage (Man Utd won the rematch 3-0 at Old Trafford). Yesterday (as I write), Manchester United scraped a draw against West Ham by playing the 'long-ball game', criticised after the match by West Ham's manager, Sam Allardyce.  West Ham are currently eighth in the table, four places behind Man Utd.

Interestingly, Moyes and Van Gaal have an identical win rate of 50%.  It might be suggested that Van Gaal's issue is not converting enough draws into wins; this is a slightly better problem to have compared to Moyes' problem, which was not holding on to enough draws and subsequently losing.  In football terms, Van Gaal needs to teach his team to more effectively 'park the bus'.

Is Louis Van Gaal safe?  According to the statistics alone, yes, he is, for now.  He's securing enough draws to keep him above the David Moyes danger line, and he's achieving more wins that Alex Ferguson did in his first season.  However, his primary focus must be to start converting draws into wins.  I haven't done the full match analysis to determine if that means scoring more or holding on to the lead once he has it - perhaps that will come later.

Is Louis Van Gaal totally safe?  That depends on if the staff at Man United think that a marginal improvement on last season's performance is worth the £59.7m spent on Angel Di Maria, £29m on Ander Herrera, and £27m on Luke Shaw (plus others).  £120m for a few more draws in the season is probably not seen as good value for money.

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