This is why 19/20 was just another mediocre season for Manchester United

The 20 – 21 football season has just begun, Manchester United have barely played 5 matches, winning 3 out of them and there are calls for sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjær as the manager of the team. Apparently there are talks of Pochettino is awaiting  an offer for Manchester United’s manager position. 

Same group of fans who are calling for Ole’s head, specifically in light of the heavy defeat against José Mourinho’s Spurs, were hailing last season’s performance under Ole as the start of a new era for Manchester United. The long unbeaten run in the premier league towards the end of last season was touted as a sign of things to come. United clawed back a 12 point deficit to third placed Leicester and finished 3rd, and therefore qualified for the Champions league. The team also reached the Semifinals of 3 knockout tournaments they were part of and were playing attacking football reminiscent of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. 

While I do not agree that Ole should be sacked from his position, I also believe last season was another mediocre season, just like most other seasons since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, 7 years ago. I tried to analyze Manchester United’s 19-20 season to see how it compares to the performance over last 7 seasons

7 years of mediocrity and counting 

In the Premier League, Manchester United managed 66 points in OGS’s first full season in charge – which is equal or worse than 6 out of the last 7 seasons. To put it into perspective, Manchester United has scored fewer points in premier league than they did in the 19-20 season on only one occasion – David Moyes’ season as manager of Manchester United, that too by just 2 points. 

This does not mark any improvement in United’s performances over the last few years. In fact in the 15/16 season, MUFC scored the same amount of points as they did in the 19/20 season and even won the FA Cup as well, yet Louis van Gaal was sacked at the end of the season!

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has other Premier league teams to thank for surviving as Manchester United’s manager at the end of last season. If we analyze points scored by the team finishing third in the last 7 Premier League seasons and the league position of the team in the league table scoring 66 points, we find that OGS has been extremely lucky. 

SeasonPoints for 3rd placed teamPosition for team with 66 pointsDifference to 66

In none of the 6 seasons prior to the 19/20 season, 66 points would have been enough to secure a Champions League spot, and had the same trend persisted, we know for a fact OGS would not be Manchester United’s manager. 

Further, the team that finished 3rd over 6 previous seasons had far higher points than last season’s 66 for Manchester United, the difference ranging between 4 – 16.

Goals galore, both for and against

Manchester United scored 112 goals in 61 games last season – an average of 1.84 per game, highest since 12/13 when United won the league under Sir Alex. However, the team ended up conceding 0.84 goals per match.  This is on the higher side compared to some of the better seasons we have had defensively, where the team conceded ~0.7 goals per match. 

The team did not have that ruthless winning mentality in 19/20 either, only managing wins in 56% of the matches – this is significantly lower than 66% achieved in the 17-18 season under Mourinho. 

Bruno’s signing marked a huge turn of events for United last season, such was his impact, that even though he was merely available for ~38% of the matches last season, he was named the Sir Matt Busby Player of the season for United. Since Bruno played his first match for United in February 2020, United played 23 matches, winning 15 of them (~65% win %), losing 2 (~9%) and drawing 8 matches. The team scored 51 goals (2.21 goals per match) and conceded 15 goals (0.65 goals per match)

If United are to manage similar numbers through a full season it is bound to be a great season for the team as it would mean higher points tally in the league, more goals for, less against and in all likelihood a trophy for Manchester United. However, the reality is that a league season is much longer and the start of 20/21 season has shown that it is not easy perform well consistently at this level – which is precisely the ask from this United team, to be consistently good over a full season, rather than being World Class in few matches and absolutely disastrous in others. 

Overall if I were to evaluate Manchester United’s performance over the last 7 years basis the facts provided above – the best performance has been under José Mourinho. In his first season in charge, United won 2 trophies and a community shield and in his second season United finished 2nd in the league, scored 81 points, had a win percentage of 66%, had one of the best attacking and defensive statistics in the last 7 years. Except for attacking prowess, OGS’ 19-20 team doesn’t come anywhere close to the performance achieved in Mourinho’s second season. 19/20 was NOT a great season for Manchester United, it was just another average season, and lack of backing to the manager in the summer transfer window this year might just throw United in the same cycle of failure that we have seen in previous couple of occasions.