When Cristiano Ronaldo rounded Fraser Forster on Saturday afternoon, the 73,000 people inside Old Trafford expected him to score.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s effort was tame, as he was instead blocked off the line. The terraces reacted with audible dismay. Ronaldo has built his career by scoring goals, but here he was squandering the most basic of opportunities. When he received the ball, he appeared likely to find the back of the net, and that moment typified United’s recent woes.
United have led Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Burnley, and Southampton, but have failed to win any of those games. That is completely inexcusable. United’s inability to detect blood and kill off fixtures in crucial moments has proven to be their undoing under Ralf Rangnick. Their distinct lack of ruthlessness will almost certainly cost them a place in the Champions League next season.
Ronaldo is the best goalscorer in football history, but he is currently suffering from his longest goal drought in more than a decade. He was invisible against Southampton, but Rangnick said ahead of Saturday’s game that it’s not all about Ronaldo, and he was correct. The goals aren’t falling as frequently as they should over the entire field. In front of goal, United is terribly wasteful.
Rangnick talked about expected goals (xG) after the points were shared at Old Trafford, and while that may seem small and irrelevant to some following another dreadful second-half performance, it wasn’t odd to see the German bring it up.
“Southampton had an xG of 2.57 to 0.57 today. It’s not a matter of not creating opportunities; it’s a matter of not being effective enough “Rangnick stated, and this was a well-veiled critique of his players. The data cannot be argued with. It’s unbiased.
Rangnick is upbeat despite Ronaldo’s goal slump.
The 63-year-old did not have the typical honeymoon phase following his interim appointment, and his marriage to United appears to be toxic. Rangnick has had little joy since his arrival, but United’s predicted goals may provide some solace.
In recent weeks, the number has provided some respite from the gloom because it really indicates relative progress.
It might be argued that only the scoreline matters – which is certainly correct in terms of the standings – but that old-fashioned school of thought is becoming increasingly uninformed. There is no data available in football that can assist us to identify patterns, provide a clearer indication of performance levels, and aid in analysis. It should be welcomed rather than avoided.
Expected goals (xG) are here to stay in football, and they can be a useful number. The measure evaluates a goal-scoring opportunity based on a variety of criteria such as shooting location, shot type, and other considerations.
In layman’s terms, xG provides a more accurate depiction of performance than scorelines, which can be misleading at times.
United have recorded 8.8 xG in their last three games against Middlesbrough, Burnley, and Southampton, but have only scored three goals. That is a substantial underperformance, emphasizing United’s wastefulness.
That degree of underperformance is unlikely to persist, and United’s fortunes in front of goal should eventually regress to the mean, implying that they’ll begin taking opportunities again shortly. They are creating far too many chances to not score goals.
The name ‘xG’ is not particularly endearing. It sounds like it would be more at home in a chemistry lab than in a football stadium, but its utility cannot be questioned, and it is now demonstrating that United is performing well in attack, but they are just not taking their chances.
Anyone watching the Southampton game would have reached the same conclusion, but the statistics demonstrate the entire scope of the issue.
United’s next two games are against Brighton and Leeds, and they should be able to score if they keep up their present form.