Manchester United currently sit joint second in their Champions League group after a dramatic finish at Old Trafford against Villareal in match week two.
Cristiano Ronaldo came up with the goods in the 95th minute against Europa League holders Villareal, to earn his side their first win in this year’s competition.
However, United were very fortunate to come away with a victory, as displayed by the xG value of both teams chances in the game, and were kept in the game in large part thanks to goalkeeper David de Gea.
Man Utd (1.34) 2-1 (2.76) Villarreal
— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) September 29, 2021
United are aiming to get to the top of their group in order to give them the best chance of an easier round of 16 draw. But they will need to improve on one key component that has plagued them so far in the competition. Creativity.
According to figures from FBref.com, The Red Devils have an SCA value of just 27, which ranks them at 25th best in the competition from 32 teams. This also puts them bottom out of the teams in their group, with the next closest team, Young Boys, having 33 SCA.
SCA or shot-creating actions, quantities how successful a team are at creating shooting chances. This is can be achieved via passing, dribbling or by other means such as drawing fouls.
United were fortunate to beat the team with the highest number of SCA in their group, as Villareal have a total of 45 SCA, but as seen yesterday they are very wasteful.
However, Italian side Atalanta are known for being a good team who play a nice brand of entertaining football, and are arguably the toughest team in the group, as seen by their Champions League exploits in the last two years that has seen them get to the knockouts twice, taking PSG all the way in the 2019/20 quarter-finals.
Atalanta has created 40 SCA so far, so the next two games will be a huge defensive test for United.
Albeit United had a tough hand with Young Boys, following Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s first-half dismissal meaning they were limited with what they could do. And Villareal is a very compact team who play exclusively counter-attacking football and exploited defensive frailties in United’s makeshift back four.
But United will need to create more chances if they are to be successful and progress out of the group. They cannot allow themselves to not create plenty of goalscoring chances, as this will be their downfall if they don’t fix it very soon.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has plenty of work to do.