Using statistics to analyse football still divides opinion. Sometimes the stats can run contrary to what we see with our own eyes, and that can cause a bit of scepticism among unbelievers. But it’s also fair to say that the statisticians can be adept at their craft, particularly the experts at WhoScored.com. The company’s ratings and weightings have become the go-to source for analysis of stats, and they are used by clubs, newspapers and bookmakers for deciding odds.
What, then, does this have to do with United? Well, WhoScored analysed the run-in for every Premier League club, and United were deemed to have one of the toughest. Overall, WhoScored looked at 90 games, every remaining fixture from after the March International Break to the final game of the season. And United were ranked as having the third most difficult run-in of all 20 Premier League teams.
Here’s the run-in:
- Brighton (H)
- Tottenham (A)
- Burnley (H)
- Leeds (A)
- Liverpool (H)
- Aston Villa (A)
- Leicester (H)
- Fulham (H)
- Wolves (A)
The average strength of United’s opponents was given as 6.764, and only Crystal Palace (6.765) and Brighton (6.782) was ranked as more difficult. Liverpool, West Ham and Tottenham, all of whom are gunning for a Top 4 place, were rated as having some of the easiest run-ins.
So, does this matter? We know the Premier League title is beyond United at this stage; not even the most naive of fans will believe United can catch City. However, while United went into the International Break with an 8-point gap over West Ham in 5th, this unpredictable season means nothing in the Top 4 race this season.
United odds-on for Top 4 spot
Among the Premier League betting offers at 888sport, United are listed as having odds of 1/20 to finish in the Top 4. In betting terms, it looks nailed on.
More importantly, though, there is a sense that United also need to set down a marker this season. Yes, the club has never seen finishing second as an achievement – that’s not in the United DNA. But improving on last season’s third-place – and points tally of 66pts – should be the baseline objective of the club to see out the league season.
Of course, United’s players should also relish the challenge. One reason that the team excelled over the winter period and briefly hit top spot is down to the strength of the squad. Yes, we all want more signings in the summer, and there are several areas to improve in, but United’s squad is one of the Premier League’s deepest. The returning Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani have helped reinvigorate the challenge.
As we mentioned earlier, stats don’t always tell the whole story. And, in truth, most teams have a tough run-in – that’s the nature of the Premier League. However, you can look at those games objectively and say that it could be difficult for United. However, after beating Brighton and Spurs, the Reds have perhaps secured a spot in the next season’s Champions League.