Jose Mour­inho will look to fol­low up his vic­tory in Turin against Ju­ven­tus with a win at the Eti­had to­day

The Herald on Sunday - - SPORT -

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.

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