As always, in order to see how sustainable a team’s form is the first of port of call is to take a look at their expected goal figures. In this case it’s good news for Manchester United. They have the 4th strongest xGD in the opening five games, despite already playing two of the top three.
Being the only team outside the top three to have a positive xGD and an equal distance separating them from 3rd place Arsenal and 5th place West Ham, they’re fairly comfortable in that 4th spot too.
Their ability to restrict high quality chances is a particular highlight of their xG numbers, with only Arsenal having a lower xG per shot against. This makes it no surprise to hear that they’ve allowed the 5th least shots with no defenders in the cone between the ball and goal, while also having the 3rd most players in this cone on average.
City had some issues with their attackers in the game, but the Manchester derby on the opening day of the season was probably the best example of United restricting a team the opposition’s chances, given the quality of opposition they were up against.
Despite the good numbers, they have over performed in defence, conceding 2 from 4.4 xG. However, they’ve also under performed in attack scoring 5 from an xG of ~7.3, so it’s not as though a bit of good fortune in defence is the driving force behind these good results.
With that being said, a few of their high xG chances have come within a flurry of shots, which feels as though it’s worth noting as it can have a big effect on the numbers with so few games played.
The win over Liverpool was a good example of this. While they were still good value for the win, the big jump in xG around the 80 minute mark was from a flurry of chances/rebounds.
It’s not a huge issue (particularly in the above game), but it does inflate their xG For numbers somewhat and it’s questionable how repeatable it makes the numbers. There feels like a big difference in having three quality chances come from rebounds of one move compared to three separate moves across the game for instance.
Taking all of this into account, however, it’s still a great start from United. They’ve got some good results and some good xG numbers under their belt and look like a good addition to the league. So, how have they gone about their opening five games?