It does seem with United at the moment that we will take one step forward then another two back and worryingly our away form in 2019 has left a lot to be desired amongst us fans as we have slipped to defeats against teams above and below us in the Premier League.
I think firstly, the fear factor has gone which United must looked to get back. There were times before when United would roll into the opposition’s stadium and inspired awe. The opposing team would be fearing the worst and you could sense they were already beaten in the tunnel. Teams like Bournemouth, West Ham, Crystal Palace now feel like they can take us on and get the win – they would look to get a goal up and then defend like a block knowing we were lacking the creativity to open them up to get back into the game.
Before the away victory in the Premier League against Norwich at the end of October, the last victory for United was against Crystal Palace all the way back in February. Though we have improved our defence with the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka during the summer transfer window, United have had some frailties at the back this season. In terms of clean sheets away from home, we have conceded in the last 11 fixtures which equals our longest run in the league.
According to Understat, as of the end of October it does show surprisingly that we are doing well in terms of our defending as we have one of the lowest expected goals against in the league with 7.21 but in some games this season it has been one silly mistake that has cost us a goal and the match.
Much more is expected from United when going away from home but at times they have just not turned up. During the first three away games this season against Wolves, Southampton and West Ham we only registered 12 shots on target which is simply not good enough. In our Europa League game away at AZ Alkmaar which we drew 0-0, we failed to register a shot on target.
We are not holding enough possession to physically impose ourselves on these matches at times. When United are getting in the opposition box away from home, we are making on average 22 touches. This has resulted in a lack of goals being scored as our goal expectancy is just 1.09.
Solskjaer had said before the Europa League away game at Partizan Belgrade, he had been confused by the United’s poor away form. In the pre-match press conference, he said “It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves as well. It’s an issue we have to deal with, sort out as soon as possible.” Though we did beat Partizan Belgrade and then won our next two away games against Chelsea and Norwich, we slipped to another defeat in the league away to Bournemouth.
Assistant manager Mike Phelan had said it would be inevitable that United’s form would see a downturn at some point during Solskjær’s reign as they have worked the team hard in order to get them to a much higher level than they were before. Phelan told The Athletic, “We’d taken them from nothing to sky high, but they bottomed out because it was just too much, they weren’t prepared for it. So we had a lot of things to work on.”
The next four Premier League away games for United sees them go to Sheffield United, Man City, Watford and Burnley, with a Europa League game away at Astana in between these. United will need to start taking their chances in the opposition’s box with the defence equally cutting out those mistakes that ultimately cost us matches this season. December will be a key month for United as we look to get ourselves back towards the top four in the league.