Plenty of possession but few chances – Erik ten Hag era gets off to slow start

Manchester United suffered defeat at home to Brighton.
Plenty of possession but few chances – Erik ten Hag era gets off to slow start

By PA Sport Staff

Manchester United opened their season with a dismal 2-1 loss to Brighton at Old Trafford in the first competitive game of manager Erik ten Hag’s reign.

Here, the PA news agency assesses the statistics that led to their defeat.

Slow start

United were slow out of the traps and ultimately gave themselves too much to do. Brighton had 12 shots to United’s four up to the point at which they took their 2-0 lead and though those figures ended up almost equal, the damage was done.

United improved after the 53rd-minute introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo, and had 10 shots to Brighton’s two from that point on in addition to the scruffy Alexis Mac Allister own goal that got them on the scoresheet, but their final tally of 17 shots to Brighton’s 15 – and five on target to four – did not reflect their dominance of possession.

Possession

United had almost 63 per cent of possession in the game and completed over 200 passes more than their opponents, 548 to 326.

Their back four of Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw – plus late substitute Tyrell Malacia – accounted for 260 of those and, while it is far from unusual to see defenders top the passing charts and playmakers Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen were also high up the rankings, United were unable to make enough of an impact in attacking areas.

Attacking threat

Lisandro Martinez
Defender Lisandro Martinez had as many shots as any United player (Ian Hodgson/PA)

United rarely threatened even if they were marked down for two ‘big chances missed’ on the Premier League website, with Marcus Rashford and Dalot the men held responsible. It may be some concern that Dalot’s fellow defender Martinez ranked as their joint leader for total shots, alongside Rashford and Eriksen with three.

United made over 20 crosses, with Fernandes and Eriksen’s involvement often coming in those situations, but aside from the Fernandes corner and ensuing scramble for the own goal Brighton were largely comfortable against them.

Defensive strength

While United’s 12 tackles were in line with Brighton’s 14, especially considering the disparity in possession, Brighton’s ability to clear their lines stood out.

The Seagulls made 24 clearances to United’s 10, Joel Veltman with six of those and Lewis Dunk five as they kept Ten Hag’s men at arm’s length, while United will rue their inability to get rid of the loose ball from which Pascal Gross scored his second goal.

United also saw all bar Dalot of their starting back four finish with yellow cards, in addition to midfielder Scott McTominay.

History repeating

Brighton celebrate during last season's win over Manchester United
Brighton celebrate during last season’s win over United (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The game came 93 days on from last season’s 4-0 humbling at the Amex Stadium and was supposed to show evidence of United’s improvement since, particularly on home turf this time around.

Instead the game followed a similar statistical pattern, with United on top in the possession column and completing more passes but the shot statistics almost equal.

If Ten Hag is to usher in the desired new era, United will need to quickly adapt to his way of playing and ensure they look less like the disorganised side of Ralf Rangnick’s half-season interregnum.

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