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The Lead

One of the major statistical mysteries this season is the discrepancy between Manchester United’s less-than-stellar performances both in Europe and the Champions League and their continued success in both competitions. Bitter and Blue writer Ben Pugsley addressed this issue on a post not too long ago. He pinpoints Man United’s impressive ability to score on a limited number of shots on target as the culprit:

Man City win the shots and TSR battle by some distance. United have scored 6 more goals than their cross-town neighbours and that is off the back of a ridiculously high scoring%.

United’s scoring% could be driven by talent, luck, both, neither, or Ferguson’s voodoo corner and crossing magic. We won’t be able to discover what is driving that scoring% (or nicking their save%) but it is covering a lot of gaps in Man United’s form.

Following United’s impressive performance last night, I decided to run their Champions League statistics beginning with their group stage matches and including their round of 16 first leg draw with Madrid. Their total shots ratio (TSR), which is a good indicator of how well a team is controlling play, is .515, compared to a .575 in the Premier League.

That’s not particularly remarkable considering the difference in quality of competition, and (WARNING) sample size. Their accompanying Champions league PDO too is 953. PDO you’ll remember is just shot% + save%. Because the statistic regresses quickly to the mean of 980-1020 (i.e. it’s just momentary noise), it is primarily a measure of luck. A team with a low PDO will likely see it rise, as with a team with a very high PDO.

Yet it’s not all luck. Some of the better teams enjoy particularly high PDOs because, as 11tegen11 pointed out to me not too long ago, “Better teams spend significantly more time leading the score, which probably influences the PDO itself.” As in teams that trail are more likely to rack up lower quality shots on target, boosting the save percentage.

Yet United’s shot percentage is incredibly high in the Premier League, at 16%. In the Champions League, it’s a whopping 24%. Their Champions League save percentage meanwhile is a fairly low 71%, worse than their Premier League save percentage of 81%, which is still low. These numbers counter slightly the notion that United are an altogether different beast in Europe.

It’s a much smaller sample size, mind, but United’s scoring ability has clearly carried over the Champions League. De Gea had a barnstormer last night, as did United’s defenders, as Michael Cox points out in his Guardian analysis this morning. He’ll need one again to preserve the tie’s fine balance in the next leg.

England

Gallas will leave Spurs in the summer, considered surplus.

Rodgers’ says any racism hurled at Liverpool will only strengthen team unity.

Ferguson very pleased with De Gea’s CL performance.

Italy

Fiorentina silent on Jovetic’s future, won’t make a decision until the end of the season.

Cagliari president Cellino arrested for alleged embezzlement.

La Liga

Atletico Madrid coach Simeone may head to Inter, Nerazzurri express interest.

David Villa back in the hospital.

Germany

Hannover desperately trying to hold on to Diouf, offer him a contract extension.

Van der Vaart admits he deliberately overreacted in order to sent Lewandowski off.

Bit and Bobs

One of the best goalmouth scrambles.

IFAB want to introduce electronic chips to monitor players’ hearts, to avoid another Muamba incident.