Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The Norwegian has been unable to sustain the club’s impressive record from his spell as caretaker boss last season.


Manchester United’s struggle for results continued with defeat to Newcastle on Sunday, increasing the speculation about manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position.

The Norwegian has been unable to sustain the club’s impressive record from his spell as caretaker boss last season, when the team’s win percentage was more than triple what it has been since he was appointed permanently.

However, United’s figures for shots taken and conceded suggest the drop-off in form is not as severe as results would indicate.

Solskjaer won his first eight matches in temporary charge, 10 of his first 11 and 14 out of 19 in all before being appointed permanently in March.

From there, things went awry as United won only twice in the remainder of the season before starting the new campaign with three wins in the first 11 games.

The season-opening 4-0 win over Chelsea proved a false dawn and remains the only time this term United have scored more than once in a game – a trend which continued from the end of last season, when they scored seven in 10 games, only netting more than once in the 2-1 wins over Watford and West Ham.

Their raw shot numbers tell a different story, though, with their per-game average actually increasing since Solskjaer was appointed permanently.

In his 19 games as caretaker boss, United had 239 attempts on goal for an average of 12.6 per match – a figure that has risen to 14.2 since his permanent appointment, with 299 in 21 games.

That makes the drop-off in goals scored seem baffling on the surface, though of course not all shots are created equal.

A record of 87 shots on target from those 299 attempts in his time as permanent manager is a significant drop-off from 107 out of 239 as caretaker and could indicate either a poor stretch of finishing or more difficult shots stemming from an inability to break down defences.

David De Gea has recovered from a shaky spell late last season (Nigel French/PA)

The improvement in shot numbers has been mirrored at the other end of the field, with United facing 227 shots at their goal in his first 19 games and just 223 in the 21 since.

That is an improvement from 11.9 shots allowed per game to 10.6 but again, United have conceded far more goals – 27 against 17.

A run of errors from goalkeeper David De Gea towards the end of last season was one factor, while this season’s matches suggest the defensive side of the equation has improved with just nine goals conceded in 11 games.

Overall, the statistics indicate United greatly over-performed expectations during Solskjaer’s initial run in caretaker charge before under-performing since.

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