Jose Mourinho will look to follow up his victory in Turin against Juventus with a win at the Etihad today
ALTHOUGH Jose Mourinho may benefit from continuing the intriguing suggestion that his Manchester United side are under siege from all directions, the English giants have in fact seen their form take a notable upswing of late.
Ahead of a crucial derby against Manchester City today, Mourinho’s team have picked up important results and should take courage from their improving performances – especially away from home.
Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Juventus side that conquered Old Trafford two weeks prior has been heralded as a turning point for the United boss. But in many ways it was just the latest example of how this side tend to perform far better when they’re on the road.
Indeed, the Champions League victory in Turin was the Red Devils’ fifth away win of the season and bumped the club’s points-pergame average on the road up to two, which is in contrast to the 1.38 points Mourinho’s side have averaged at Old Trafford this term.
The Portuguese coach is renowned for his preference for defensive football and when we compare United’s success at home and away that seems to be a fundamental reason behind the contrasting fortunes.
Although United tend to concede more shots away from home on average this season, they do average around five more interceptions per game on the road than at Old Trafford. Which may explain why the expected goals average for United’s opponents is slightly higher in Manchester than it is when Mourinho’s side set off on their travels.
This, fundamentally, translates to United having a far better defensive record on the road as a whole, with a respectable 1.27 goals conceded on average in each away game looking far better than the 1.45 United ship in any given home match.
Despite victories at Bournemouth, Watford, Burnley and the recent win in Italy, it isn’t just classic, Mourinho defending that is proving useful on the road for United this season. His team also come alive and seem to attack with far more vigour and imagination on the road, too.
Intriguingly, United average more crosses, shots and counterattacks at Old Trafford per game, yet the club’s expected goals figure stands at just 1.36 per match. On the road that number takes an eyewatering 25-per-cent increase to 1.7.
Similarly, Manchester United’s fans will reluctantly note that the club’s goalscoring at home has been dreadful this season – the 1-1 draw with Wolves, 0-0 stalemate with Valencia and the 1-0 defeat to Juventus spring to mind – which currently averages out at a rather pitiful 1.18 goals per home game.
Yet on the road Mourinho’s side pick up 1.64 goals per game, which, as we’ve recently seen at Stamford Bridge and the Allianz Stadium in Turin, can prove enough to claim important results that suddenly galvanise the squad and wider support.
Of course, none of this means that Mourinho’s side are up to the task of matching Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Manchester City side.
The Old Trafford boss chose the word “untouchables” to describe his coming opponents in the prematch media conference and, although it may have been a flippant remark, it goes a long way to underlining the gap between both sides at the moment.
However, it would seem that United’s best chance to beat their spotless rivals will come this afternoon at the Etihad Stadium. Mourinho’s side have looked far better on the road this season and that should give them confidence ahead of the first Manchester derby of the season.