Analysis / GoalPost / Premier League

It’s José vs Josep: The Manchester Derby 2016 Preview (1)


“As Mr. Mourinho has called me Pep, I’m going to call him José.” The great managerial battle continues. A battle between ex-best friends, who have now become worst enemies. The battle between counter-attack and tiki-taka. The battle between light and dark. The battle between using the press and staying away from it1. The battle between the greatest managers in the world. It’s José versus Josep. Mourinho versus Guardiola. This battle has a new name…

The Manchester Derby. It was never taken seriously, until a certain Abu Dhabian oligarch paid £200 million and completed the takeover of the club. The ‘noisy neighbors’ are now among the richest in the sport. Manchester is now less about Rooney and his bicycle kick, and more about the popularity of AGUEROOO!!! and his magical last minute goal against QPR to win the title for the first time in its history. By keeping United away from it.

We know all about Mourinho versus Guardiola and their rivalry. We know all about Rooney, Ibrahimovic and Aguero. But what’s important is the game. I am going to look at the statistical side of it – not about ‘Manchester United have lost 3 of their last 5 home meetings with City’ – but about Manchester United’s shooting squad, City’s left-wing – right-wing dilemma and the key player battles and suggested line-ups for the Manchester clubs.

Talking Tactics

José Mourinho, as everyone knows, is the poster boy for pragmatism and parking the bus. On the other hand, Pep Guardiola is the poster boy for aesthetics and attacking. The fixture will be, as the Brazillians would probably call it, the battle between futebol de arte and futebol de resultados.

Cesar Luis Menotti, the Argentinian manager who won the FIFA World Cup of 1974, called attacking football ‘left-wing football’ and labeled defensive football as ‘right-wing football.’ Ironically, the attacking sides of his era, such as his country Argentina itself, came from countries ruled by right-wing fascists. On the other hand, the defensive, pragmatist teams of his time, like the many USSR clubs, were ruled by socialists. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola once claimed that his Barcelona played leftist football.

Attacking football has always been glamorized and everyone seeks to play it. A lot of teams take it literally. Only one team plays less than one-third of attacks down the left. All other teams play, or try to play, ‘left-wing football’.

However, of late, counter-attacking has proved to be very successful. So because of that, Guardiola has tried to balance out his style of play. At Bayern Munich and at Manchester City now, Guardiola has been slightly more defensive compared to his Barca days. He took left-wing – right-wing literally. While 37% of City’s attacks come from the left, 36% of City’s attacks come from the right wing.

José Mourinho has been for long touted a manager who neglects attack and defends in numbers. But he shouldn’t be. He doesn’t park the bus and set up a blanket defence; his United spends 75% of the time outside United’s defensive third. Mourinho, I think, is trying to change himself. He is trying to play attacking football. And he thinks attacking football means attacking from the left wing. 39% of United’s attacks come from the left wing.

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona-like tactics are really taking effect. City leads the Premier League table when it comes to possession. They also move the ball a lot. They have completed the highest number of short passes in the league. Mourinho has now started adopting a less anti-possession game. Manchester United now on average dominate 52.4% of the ball. But United will probably sit back and counter-attack given City’s tiki-taka skill.

Both Manchester clubs produce quality shots. Manchester City have shot the highest ratio of their shots in the 18-yard box. Meanwhile, United shoot a comparatively higher proportion of their total shots in the 18-yard box and in the 6-yard box. But that is probably a big number, as United shoot around 17 goals a game.

Take a look at City’s shooting against United…West Ham United at the Ethihad on the 28th of August:



Now look at United’s shooting against City… Hull City at the KCOM Hull Stadium on the 27th of August:



Okay, that’s a lot of shots, coming from everywhere on the pitch. Many of these shots’ starting points can’t be seen on Stats Zone, as they come from way, way out. But still, many shots are on target – eight of them, in fact. Yet, United scored only one – a 91st minute shot from the six-yard box from Marcus Rashford. Their shooting is good and they could have scored a lot, but they didn’t. 87.5% of United’s on target shots were saved. Don’t be misled by these numbers and assume that Hull City’s Edin Jakupovic is the best keeper in the world. It can just be bad shooting.

I think the problem here is that United’s shots come from the middle of the pitch. They also go to the middle of the goal, as you can see below.


United has to shoot from different zones. 65% of their shots come from the middle. City has their shots better spread out. Mourinho has to tell his side to shoot at different parts of the goal, as well. Or tell them to check out Paul Riley’s work at Differentgame. Good shooting is of no use if you don’t place them well.

Key Battles

I hate to add to the whole frenzy about his skill. He is fast, strong and tall. Everybody loves him.

No, I’m not talking about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I am talking about the teenage sensation Marcus Rashford. I doubt that he will be picked by Mourinho, but he should. Who has scored the highest number of goals for United? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Who has taken the highest number of shots on goal? Zlatan Ibrahimovic. So shouldn’t Zlatan Ibrahimovic be picked by Mourinho? But don’t make him the captain of your fantasy premier league line-up yet!

The stats in the last paragraph were the basic stats. While Ibrahimovic has played for 270 minutes this season, Rashford has only been on the pitch for 19 minutes. During those 19 minutes, he scored a goal. So his per 90 minutes goal tally is 4.7 – a huge number. Zlatan’s per90? One. Rashford is smart, too. He has taken three shots. Two of them came from the penalty area and one of them, the one that gave him the goal, was from the six-yard box. Rashford is also efficient. 33% of his shots go into the goal.

Another thing about Rashford is that he is a creative striker, quite mature for his age. Assists aren’t a great performance indicator. Key passes are. Marcus Rashford has made 4.7 key passes per90. Ibra has made 1.3 key passes per90.

But Rashford will face a challenge trying to get past Argentinean center-back Nicolas Otamendi. Otamendi has truly benefited from Vincent Kompany’s injuries. He has a tackling rate of 89%. He makes 7 clearances a game. Defenders aren’t very easy to rate if you only operate with on-the-ball stats, but Otamendi without doubt looks good. He is also good in the air: Otamendi wins 71% of the aerial battles he goes into.

In order to accommodate both Rashford and Ibrahimovic, Mourinho needs to drop the 4-2-3-1 and Rooney and replace him with Rashford.

Recommended Line-Ups

Based on statistics and adaptation to tactics, these are the best XIs for the two Manchester teams:

Manchester City



In this version of City, Aguero is replaced by Jesus Navas. However, Navas does not operate as a striker, but is in his regular role as right winger. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling turns into a false nine. This may be what Guardiola will prefer, given the success of the player who operated in that position when Guardiola was at Barça (cough…Leo…cough). And Jesus Navas is a Spaniard. I would imagine that Guardiola would like to put Bacary Sagna into the squad for an attacking edge. Sagna has completed more passes per90 than him.

Manchester United


As explained earlier, Mourinho should replace Rooney with Rashford, even though Rooney is the top Manchester Derby scorer. Firstly, there’s the age – putting Rashford on takes 12 years out of United and replaces a fading star with an energetic, rising one. Also, Rashford is fast and strong, which can prove deadly especially when you consider that his teammates are Martial, Mata and Ibrahimovic. Rashford is statistically better, too. Rooney’s goals per90 is 0.3 compared to Rashford’s 4.7. And Rashford’s stats are better than Ibrahimovic’s. No Manchester United supporter would want to remove Zlatan from the team. But no one would mind sending Rooney to the bench.


At this point I’m too lazy to do any Expected Goals calculations. Plus, xG is getting old. So I’m just going to call these with the oldest tricks in the book. Based on the scoring rates and conceding rates, the equation for simple match predictions from David Sumpter’s book Soccermatics is this:

Home team score= 1/2(Sh + Ca)

Away team score= 1/2(Sa + Ch)

In these equations, Sh stands for average goals scored by home team and Ca stands for average goals conceded by away team, Sa stands for average goals scored by away team and Ch stands for average goals conceded by home team.

So by substituting values, we get

1/2(2 + 1) and 1/2 (3 + 1)

Which is 1.5 and 2. Manchester City look likelier to win, and add the high passing rate that they have got and you get a winner. The most common scoreline in football is 1-2, and I think that it will be the scoreline when the City of Manchester is united and divided at Old Trafford on 10th of September, 2016.

Notes and References

By ‘press’ I mean both the media and moving up high the pitch and pressuring the player with the ball to conceding it. But Mourinho is the media-friendly one and the high-pressing one is Guardiola.






4 thoughts on “It’s José vs Josep: The Manchester Derby 2016 Preview (1)

  1. Pingback: The Manchester Derby 2016 (1) Review | the futebolist

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