Far from the early season disasters that have been Manchester United performances, there was a Champions League draw which threw up plenty of interesting challenges for the Red Devils.
From a meeting with Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus to a resurgent Valencia to the more unknown quantity of Young Boys, United have a tricky test if they are to get through the Champions League groups stage once again.
Here we’ll delve deeper into the statistics of United’s now confirmed opponents to see what Jose’s boys are up against this autumn:
First, let’s look at the Swiss champions Young Boys. For this comparison, we’re using European statistics from last season:
The first thing to note is that Manchester United are superior in every single aspect to Young Boys in an attacking sense. However, closer inspection shows that the Swiss side are not that far apart in some areas.
Most noticeably, Young Boys only took 12 shots fewer than Manchester United (100 to 112) despite playing two fewer games in Europe last season. That goes to show that the Swiss champions are not afraid to have a shot or two in a game.
That being said, they’re not necessarily accurate. Only 40% of Young Boys’ shots were accurate which is a really poor number when you consider Manchester United sit on 49%. That means that despite taking nearly as many shots as United, Young Boys are certainly more profligate in front of goal than the Red Devils.
Set pieces appear to be a key area for Young Boys. Three of their seven goals were from set pieces however only one of their seven goals was a header. What that shows is that Young Boys are a side that are well-drilled at set pieces but do not necessarily provide an aerial threat up front, something United will have to be wary of.
Again, it is clear to see that Manchester United are superior to Young Boys in defensive statistics but, once again, the numbers are fairly close. This goes to show that Young Boys are a side that are well-organised defensively and will be tough to break down. It’s clear that United should be wary of Young Boys.
Back after a three-year absence from European competition, Valencia are going to be a tricky customer for United. Just how tricky? We’ve delved into their league statistics from last season to see:
This is a very interesting and tight comparison. Both sides are highly similar in their numbers from league performances last season with nearly the same number of goals scored (United’s 65 to Valencia’s 62). However, there is one thing that should be of note to United fans.
Despite both sides having a 52% shot accuracy rate, United only scored three more goals from 67 more shots. That is a huge number of shots for an extra three goals and shows that while Valencia take fewer shots than United, they score a similar number of goals which should keep United’s defenders on their toes.
Again, another interesting comparison and a statistical look at the different defensive approaches each side takes.
United are far happier to sit back a little and let teams try and pass through them, drawing them in before regaining the ball back in time and going from there. Valencia are a bit more proactive in their approach, looking to win the ball back earlier than United would while also comfortable with soaking up some pressure if being aggressive doesn’t work.
This is evident in the statistics. United lead the way in interceptions (430 to 404) but are over 120 tackles behind Valencia which indicates that Valencia are far more aggressive in their defensive set up while United prefer to sit back and pick their moment to stop their opponent’s attack.
The big concern for United though is the defensive errors category. United had 19 in 17/18 while Valencia had just 7. No matter which way you look at it, that’s a concern for United.
The favourites for the group are the seven consecutive time winners of Serie A, Juventus now strengthened by one Cristiano Ronaldo:
Attacking wise, United and Juventus are fairly similar with the Italian champions just edging a number of areas.
However, a couple of things stand out. First, Juventus were far more accurate with their shots than United with an accuracy of 54%. As Spurs fans can attest, Juventus can be very potent and clinical when it matters and with their new superstar addition, that potency will only increase.
Secondly, Juventus don’t rely on set pieces as much for goals as United. Five of United’s goals came from set pieces compared to just three of Juventus’. That means that United could find a potential weakness in the Juve armour there.
Juventus’ main strength lies in its backline, feared around Europe. Yet, last season they statistically underperformed despite outscoring United in interceptions and tackles won quite comfortably.
United conceded more than half the number of goals Juve did in two fewer games as well as making one less defensive error. While the experience of Chiellini and Benatia and the returning Bonucci means they are superb, the ageing legs in that defence can be got at as proven by last season’s statistics so United could have a chance if they are brave.
Overall, this group is hardly an ideal draw for Manchester United. The Champions League is something the Red Devils have to go far in each season and this group will put that progression to the ultimate test.
However, as our statistics have shown, Manchester United are more than a match for each one of these teams and can beat them all.
Juventus’ attacking output may be clinical but their defence is creaking a little.
Valencia are defensively sound and aggressive but can be breached and don’t shoot as often as United.
Young Boys are clearly the underdogs and, despite being a solid outfit, should be dispatched by United comfortably.
Should United fans be nervous? A little. However, as the statistics show, Mourinho’s men should be capable of getting through this group.