Possession but little threat – data behind Man Utd’s Brentford dubbing

Manchester United’s dismal start to the season under new manager Erik ten Hag escalated with a 4-0 hammering by Brentford on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency considers the statistics behind their latest defeat.


Brentford v Manchester United - Premier League - Gtech Community Stadium

Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo (left) and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw fight for the ball

For the second week in a row, United dominated possession but failed to make it count. Ten Hag’s side had exactly two-thirds of the ball according to the Premier League’s official statistics, an increase even on 63 per cent in the loss to Brighton last week.

They had 699 touches of the ball, including 525 passes, compared to Brentford’s 421 and 255, but failed to create clear-cut chances. By contrast, the Bees’ clinical edge was exemplified by the Lightning’s two-pass counterattack for Bryan Mbeumo to score the fourth goal and Mathias Jensen picking out Christian Eriksen to immediately put in the second.

Goes the distance

A figure that sparked much discussion after the game was the distance run by the respective teams, 95.6 kilometers for United compared to Brentford’s 109.4 kilometers.

While distance figures are of limited use in isolation, and can largely be explained by the disparity in possession, in some teams it was interpreted as illustrating a lack of commitment. Ten Hag canceled United’s planned day off on Sunday and there were reports that he wanted his players to run the extra 13.8km during the extra training session.

Offensive threat

Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after a missed chance

Cristiano Ronaldo was frustrated in front of goal (John Walton/PA)

United had 15 shots to Brentford’s 13 over the 90 minutes, but just four on target compared to seven for the hosts and two corners to eight.

Eriksen was deemed guilty of a “big chance missed” in the league’s statistics and went near a consolation against his former club while Cristiano Ronaldo, recalled to the starting line-up, led the way with six shots including two on target.

Busy in the defense

Harry Maguire, right, tackles Brentford's Ivan Toney

Harry Maguire, right, fouls Brentford’s Ivan Toney (John Walton/PA)

United were required to make twice as many tackles as Brentford, 12 to six, and 22 clearances to 13.

They committed 15 fouls and collected four bookings, frustrated late challenges by Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, and added Harry Maguire’s first-half foul on Ivan Toney, and the number of free kicks ended 17-7 in Brentford’s favor including offside.

Martinez avoids duels?

Lisandro Martinez’s lack of height in central defense has already been questioned, particularly after Ben Mee’s goal when the Brentford defender headed home despite falling backwards under pressure from the Argentine.

5ft 9in Martinez has made three head clearances this season but is recorded on the league website as not having contested an aerial fight. United old boy Gary Neville, himself a shorter centre-back for some of his early career before switching permanently to right-back, drew attention in his post-match analysis for Sky Sports to Maguire switching to cover for Martinez in the air and likened it to his old teammate Gary Pallister did the same for him.

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