How does Mourinho set about solving Man Utd's Old Trafford riddle?

Comments()
Getty Images
With the Red Devils' win percentage on home soil hitting a 40-year low, their manager will be wondering why successes on the road cannot be replicated

COMMENT

Another week gone and more points dropped for Manchester United at Old Trafford.

And another draw, a 14th in total and a 10th on home soil.

For Jose Mourinho’s side, that is now 28 points that have seemed well within reach, only to turn out to be agonisingly out of their grasp.

Mou gives Man Utd players social media ban

Silverware may have already been collected this season, and there may be more to come, but the Red Devils have endured a ‘what if’ campaign on the Premier League front.

Remarkably, they are now 25 games unbeaten in top-flight competition, with even Sir Alex Ferguson unable to match such a record during his illustrious spell at the helm.

Only two teams can claim to have bettered that sequence in the Premier League era – Arsenal (38) and Chelsea (29) – while United now sit eighth on the all-time list.

Clearly, there is a lot to be encouraged about, but those emotions are countered by a sense of disappointment.

Manchester United managers home win percentage

Much of that, of course, stems from their showings in front of their own supporters.

The Theatre of Dreams has not become a House of Horrors – only one defeat in 18 outings has ensured that – but it is now a Manor of Frustration.

Mourinho’s win ratio at Old Trafford stands at just 39 per cent, with that return placing him below any United boss of the last 40 years – David Moyes (44%), Ron Atkinson (52%), Louis van Gaal (68%) et al.

Reserve team warning by Mourinho

West Brom, Bournemouth, Burnley, Watford and Hull City have all collected more victories at home this season, with only six clubs – of which three occupy the relegation places – managing fewer.

The Red Devils are now guaranteed to fall short of the nine-win mark they managed under Moyes and Ryan Giggs in 2013-14, with there only one outing against Crystal Palace left to take in this term.

They are also unlikely to match their 29-goal haul from that season, given that they will need five against the Eagles to draw level.

How, then, has this situation come about?

Season (Home) Won Drew Lost Goals Shots Shot accuracy Mins/Goal Hit woodwork Conversion rate
2012-13 16 0 3 45 297 46.58 38 11 15.15
2013-14 9 3 7 29 302 45.78 58.97 9 9.6
2014-15 14 2 3 41 285 50 41.71 4 14.39
2015-16 12 5 2 27 248 47.17 63.33 7 10.89
2016-17 7 10 1 24 329 48.74 67.5 12 7.29
Season (Away) Won Drew Lost Goals Shots Shot accuracy Mins/Goal Hit woodwork Conversion rate
2012-13 12 5 2 41 264 52 41.71 13 15.53
2013-14 10 4 5 35 224 46.78 48.86 7 15.63
2014-15 6 8 5 21 227 47.47 81.43 7 9.25
2015-16 7 4 8 22 182 51.49 77.73 2 12.09
2016-17 10 4 2 27 224 50.3 53.33 6 12.05

United have fired 329 shots at Old Trafford this season, their highest return in five years, while their passing accuracy remains competitive in the mid-80s and they control a little under 60 per cent of the possession in any given outing on home turf.

The glaring deficiency in their game relates to the most important part of it – sticking the ball in the back of the net.

While continuing to pepper opposition goalkeepers, the Red Devils have hit the woodwork 12 times – a figure unmatched since 2008 – while their big chance conversion and shot conversion rates have dipped dramatically to new lows of just 26.83 and 7.29 per cent respectively.

Surely, though, this cannot be put down to merely bad luck and the odd off day.

Mata: Every game is a final

The general consensus is that over the course of any given season, fortune will even itself out and all sides will get the rub of the green at some stage.

Maybe United have used up all of their supply on the road, with their away numbers leaving Mourinho scratching his head as he endeavours to work out why his side are toiling at home and excelling on their travels.

With two games left to take in – against north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham – the Red Devils have already matched their post-Ferguson best of 10 wins away from Old Trafford, while being held just four times and plundering 27 goals.

They have struck the woodwork just six times on the road, while their conversion figures soar to much more respectable marks of 43.33 for big chances and 12.05 for shots overall.

Jose Mourinho Manchester United home form

Their minutes per goal numbers also improve dramatically, with a sorry return of 67.5 at Old Trafford – easily their worst of the modern era – dipping to 53.33 away from home despite getting off over 100 fewer shots and seeing less of the ball.

Old Trafford, it would appear, which was once a fortress that had opponents beaten before they had even stepped foot onto the field, has become just another ground – with teams now looking to embrace the sense of occasion that playing in front of 75,000 brings, while offering just enough to take something home with them.

Only Manchester City have made the short journey back to the Etihad with all three points this season, but Mourinho has offered up far more gifts than he would have liked, with the Portuguese admitting as much.

Man Utd set new unbeaten record

He said in April: “We're not good enough or strong enough because we're not winning, and we're not good enough or strong enough to score the goals we should. We're giving the opponents and their goalkeeper the chance to be man of the match so many times. But I still think in spite of bad results – because for us a draw is a bad result – we're strong at home.”

The United boss appears, like his side, to be tying himself in knots – “we’re not good enough or strong enough...but we’re strong at home”. Clear as mud!

If even Mourinho cannot come up with a logical explanation as to why an ambitious football club with millions in the bank and a star-studded squad can manage to get the job done on the road but fail to replicate those efforts in what should be more comfortable surrounds where the odds are stacked in their favour, then what hope do the rest of us have?

Riddle me that. 

Close