Statistical review: Manchester United’s Premier League campaign
Let’s cut to the chase: Manchester United’s 2013/14 Premier League campaign was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish.
In the wake of Alex Ferguson’s decampment, David Moyes was given the unenviable task of ushering in a new era at Old Trafford. Nobody expected the Moyes transition to be smooth – given his predecessor’s legacy and unique aura – but few predicted such an unceremonious collapse from the Premier League champions.
By late January, the Reds languished in 7th place, trailing league-leaders Arsenal by 14 points. Talk of retaining the title dissipated, as securing a Champions League berth became the premier target.
As it transpired, Moyes and co. would conspire to fall short of even the most conservative fan’s expectations, as they failed to land a Europa League qualification spot.
For a club of Manchester United’s cachet and squad depth, this was nine months to forget.
Best Moment: Manchester United 1 – 0 Arsenal
Considering that Manchester United only accrued 14 points from teams in the top half (3 wins, 5 draws, 10 losses), it’s not particularly easy to pinpoint a standout moment. In saying that, United’s slim victory over table-topping Arsenal was compelling at the time.
Inevitably, Robin van Persie netted the only goal of the match, steering a Wayne Rooney corner into the roof of Wojiech Szczesny’s goal. Notwithstanding Arsene Wenger’s pre-match assertion that van Persie was still “an Arsenal man”, the Dutch striker was exultant in his celebration – much to the ire of the away fans.
Ultimately, this win against The Gunners was not decisive but at the time a loss would’ve put United 11 points adrift of 1st place, as opposed to five points.
Worst Moment: Manchester City 4 – 1 Manchester United
There’s nothing worse as a football fan than witnessing your beloved club get mauled at the hands of their bitter rivals. Manchester United fans lived through that dreaded eventuality just five weeks into the season.
Coming off the back of two comfortable home victories against Crystal Palace and Bayern Leverkusen, United would’ve approached the Manchester derby in high spirits, albeit acutely aware of the threat Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit posed.
City, meanwhile, had recorded a routine 3-0 win over Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League but had been held to a scoreless draw by Stoke City the week prior. The form table suggested a closely fought encounter.
That wasn’t to be as the blue side of Manchester stormed to a 2-0 half-time lead courtesy of goals from Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure. Aguero then doubled his tally shortly after the break in play, side-footing past David de Gea from three yards out. Samir Nasri sought to compound the Red Devil’s misery on the 50th minute, latching on to a deep cross from Jesus Navas to make it 4-0.
Wayne Rooney’s superb curling free-kick restored some pride but the damage had already been done.
Best Player: Wayne Rooney (Squawka Performance Score– 895)
He didn’t have a vintage season, but Wayne Rooney was United’s most consistent player by some margin.
The England international topped United’s scoring and assisting charts, with 17 goals and 10 assists in 29 appearances.
In Rooney’s decade-long career at Old Trafford, he’s only surpassed that scoring total in two others seasons (26 in 2009 and 27 in 2011).
The 28-year-old’s 56 key passes also far outstripped his teammates’s contributions, with left-back Patrice Evrra providing the second-most key passes (38) – which in itself is a damning indictment of United’s midfielders and their inability to support the strikers.
Best Transfer: Juan Mata (Squawka Performance Score – 469)
Despite being awarded Chelsea’s Player of the Year accolade in the 2012/13 season, Juan Mata was deemed surplus to requirements by Jose Mourinho and shipped off to Manchester United in the January transfer window.
Since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the Spanish playmaker has featured on 15 separate occasions, which includes only eight full games. In spite of the limited playing time, Mata scored six goals and fashioned four assists last term – making him United’s fourth-top goalscorer behind Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck.
Additionally, the former Valencia man also created 33 chances for teammates, which is five more than midfield stalwart Michael Carrick, who made nearly twice as many appearances (29) as Mata. He also boasts the joint-highest pass accuracy (89%) of any United player.
Target For Next Season:
Louis van Gaal’s first assignment will be to instill belief in an underperforming squad replete with world-class talent.
If Liverpool’s rise to prominence last season is anything to go by, United are not out of the title equation but it would take an equally astonishing turnaround in fortunes.
This summer transfer window is likely to be the busiest in United’s history, so it’s worth holding fire before making predictions.
If they invest in two quality centre-backs – that bed in quickly – and a world-class midfielder, then United’s redoubtable forward line could propel them towards the Premier League’s summit.