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The Huge Differences Between Solskjaer’s First Game Against Cardiff And The Everton Defeat Laid Bare

Anyone watching the 4-0 defeat to Everton yesterday could clearly see for themselves that the players weren’t even remotely close to putting in 100% effort. Hard work is the minimum you would expect from any United team but it was conspicuous by its absence at Goodison Park.

The old adage of “Statistics don’t lie” can be overly simplistic but with regards to certain aspects of football, there is really no hiding place when it comes to demonstrating work rate and organisation.

If we make a comparison and contrast the Everton loss with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge against Cardiff, you can clearly see where things have gone awry.

PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action)

This tells us how many passes a team allows before pressing an opponent. The higher the number, the less pressing a team is doing. According to Wyscout, against Cardiff, United allowed an average of just 4.26 passes before pressing. Against Everton, this had shot up to 19.42.

Although you would expect a higher press when a new manager comes in as they look to impress, the vast difference is eye-catching, to say the least. They allowed on average 15 more passes before pressing the ball.

Losses Of Possession

Against Everton, United lost possession of the ball 105 times in the space of 90 minutes. It was the second-worst performance on this metric of the season, behind the 127 they managed in the 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace back in November.

Versus Cardiff, they lost the ball just 63 times, much closer to their season’s best which was against PSG (47) when they triumphed 3-1 in the Parc des Princes. Careless passing spread like a disease through the whole team yesterday with a lack of confidence certainly playing a part.

Interceptions and Defensive Duels

With regards to intercepting passes, United made just 24, compared to 36 against Cardiff, and well below the season average of 44. In terms of one-on-one defensive duels, they won just 20% compared to 32% in the 5-1 win over the Bluebirds.

In fact, the 20% against Everton is actually close to United’s average (21.5%) for the whole campaign which suggests they just reverted to the mean in their performance yesterday. The number of challenges they won were also bang on the money (38.5%), indicating that in some areas they are not doing anything different than before.

What it does tell us is that these players stepped up their game when Solskjaer first came in but they have reverted to type since then. Their work rate was significantly lower (as any supporter could see whilst watching yesterday), but as you can see above, it isn’t a one-off aberration.

This United team played particularly poorly against Everton, but in the context of the season, they are really just going back to how they were under Mourinho. Huge changes in personnel are required in the summer if Solskjaer wants this team competing at the top end of the table.