The peculiar stat which highlights Manchester United’s deficiencies this season

The Red Devils have endured a tough first half of 2021/22 and have failed to control games.

There’s no denying Manchester United’s first half of the season has not gone to plan, with the club currently seventh after 19 games and trailing leaders Manchester City by 22 points.

Whether it’s under the tenure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick, the Red Devils have struggled to take hold of games and dictate proceedings like we’ve seen the division’s top three sides habitually demonstrate this term.

United also have found it difficult to stop opposition side attacking through their centre, a problem Rangnick even acknowledged after the recent 1-0 FA Cup win over Aston Villa.

Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic simply don’t offer the required defensive capabilities to effectively screen a back four, and like the win over Villa, recent games against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Norwich City have seen the Red Devils exposed through the centre.

One particular statistic exposes the severity of this problem in comparison to United’s other Premier League rivals.

United have struggled to control games in midfield this season. Credit: Getty.

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The statistic which highlights United’s weakness

At the halfway point of the season, for United at least, only two sides have picked up more yellow cards in the league than the Red Devils.

United have accumulated 43 bookings with only Leeds United (52) and Newcastle (48) picking up more so far this season.

From 19 matches that equates to 2.26 cautions per game for the 13-time Premier League champions, which also sees them in third in the top flight.

How does this explain United’s lack of control?

In general, sides who have more control over games will have a higher level of possession and be less exposed by opposition attacks, and less likely to commit the sort of fouls which lead to yellow cards.

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United have picked up 43 yellow cards this season. Credit: Getty.

This bears out in the booking statistics, with City, the side who control games the most, averaging 1.43 per game compared to United’s 2.26.

Liverpool have picked up 1.4 per game so far this term and West Ham United just 1.35. In fact, seven of the current top eight sides score among the lowest eight when it comes to bookings per game, the anomaly being United.

The Red Devils’ high number of bookings also reflects poorly compared to the other sides near the top of the yellow cards charts. Leeds and Newcastle, two sides who struggle to dictate the flow and tempo of games are top, followed by Villa, who have lost the third highest number of games this season.

United have also been given three red cards in this season, admittedly with one coming in the Champions League, but it’s another indication of the erratic and panicked decision making which has impacted the team, as well as lack of discipline in their ranks.

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Which games have seen the most yellow cards?

The highest number of bookings in a single game this term came against Liverpool, a match United certainly had no control over, and they picked up six yellow cards in that 5-0 loss as well as seeing Paul Pogba receive a straight red card.

United also were shown five bookings against Chelsea and four in the 1-0 win over Wolves in August, two further games in which the Red Devils were second best.

A lack of control in games equating to yellow cards is further demonstrated by the fact Rangnick’s men picked up just four bookings across their last four league wins, although that number increases to 14 from the last four games they haven’t won.

Scott McTominy picked up a fifth booking of the season in the recent loss to Wolves. Credit: Getty.

Which players have been booked most?

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Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay have picked up five Premier League yellow cards this, the highest number for United.

For the latter pair, that fifth booking means they’re suspended for Saturday’s game against Aston Villa.

After the above trio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Maguire, Fred and Paul Pogba have all been cautioned on four occasions.