Derby Day Dogfight: The Battle of Manchester | Statistical Preview

Derby Day Dogfight: The Battle of Manchester | Statistical Preview


Here we go again. The top-of-the-table clash between the two Manchester clubs is upon us.

It might be relatively early in the season still, but it would be silly to say this will have no bearing on where the title is going at the end of the season. As it stands, both Manchester United and Manchester City are well ahead of their nearest opponents in the league table, with Chelsea being 10 points behind Manchester United and 7 points behind City.

This is very well turning out to be a two-horse race again, and one cannot stress the importance of the match this weekend.

Since 2007, the Manchester derbies have been exceptionally tight, with only one goal separating the teams in most of the matches (Exception goes to the 0-0 draw at the Etihad in 2010 and of course, the Old Trafford massacre last season where City won 6-1, but more on that later). Recent results definitely favour Manchester City. They did the double over United, and this was one of, if not the biggest factor that brought the title to City last season.

While Manchester United are 3 points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, City are still unbeaten this season, whereas United have lost 3 times already. Furthermore, City’s home form has been very formidable. They were undefeated at home in the entire 2011/2012 season, and in the 2010/2011 season they were beaten at home only twice. The Etihad stadium has no doubt become a fortress of late.

So the question is, how will the story unfold in the derby this Sunday?

Kompany scoring a header in the only goal of the game in the same fixture last season. Source:

Here is a little snippet into some of the statistics that can hopefully determine who will come out on top at the weekend.

I will be looking at their defending, passing and creativity and goal scoring statistics to determine who will have an edge in the fixture.


Table 1 – Defending

In terms of defending, it has been well documented about frequency of goals Manchester United have been leaking this season. They have had only 3 clean sheets in 15 games this season, and have conceded 21 goals, almost double the number goals Manchester City has conceded. While City has kept twice the number of clean sheets as United (6), you would really expect better from a team that had the best defence last season.

With respect to the other statistics in Table 1, there doesn’t seem to be that significant difference in numbers. United has a slightly higher percentage of ground 50-50 wins (53% vs. 49%), City has a marginally higher percentage of aerial 50-50 wins (50% vs. 48%), and their tackle success rates are almost identical (both teams have 79% tackle success rate).

These are the little signs that show the closeness in standard that both Manchester clubs are at. Remember the result over the seasons have been very tight affairs.

Passing & Creativity

Table 2 – Passing & Creativity

It would seem that United has the better passing statistics as compared to City. They have made more total passes, more total accurate passes and have a better rate of pass completion.

City, on the other hand, has made more dribbles than United (202 vs. 183). While City has attempted less crosses than United (361 vs. 420), their crossing accuracy has been slightly more successful (24% vs. 21%) than United’s crossing. City also created marginally more chances than United in these 15 games so far (7.46 minutes per chance created vs. United’s 7.6 minutes per chance created).

However, the biggest factor here is the number of goal assists, and United are more superior in this aspect, with 28 goal assists to their name as compared to City’s measly 15 goal assists. This is a huge factor in the goal-scoring department, which we will look at now.

Goal scoring

Table 3 – Goal Scoring

From Table 3, Manchester United is clearly more successful in goal scoring as compared to Manchester City. They’ve scored 37 goals already whereas City has only 28 goals to their name. While City has had more attempts on goal, their chance conversion is only 14% whereas United has had less attempts on goal but made the most from them.

This makes it all the more interesting, considering that City has the better defensive record while United has the more potent attack. It’s set up really nicely.


Gary Pallister said earlier this week:

[quote]‘Neither team has been as strong defensively as they should be…’ [/quote]

He predicts there will be goals in City vs. United this weekend.

With the way United’s season has been so far, you wouldn’t bet against City scoring, especially with their record at home. But you wouldn’t bet against United to score goals as well; they’ve been scoring goals at will at the moment. Hence Pallister might have a point.

However, if you were to consider the recent trend of Manchester derbies being a tight affair as mentioned earlier in the article, you would want to disagree with Pallister. Looking back at the statistics, the difference between the two teams can go into the littlest of details.

It all really depends on who performs better on the day. Little details and mistakes can change the course of the game. The perfect example would be Johnny Evans’ tackle that caused his dismissal, which was the catalyst to United’s downfall last season.

[quote]‘It was our worst ever day. It’s the worst result in my history, ever. Even as a player I don’t think I ever lost 6-1. I can’t believe the scoreline. The first goal was a blow but it was retrievable at 1-0.’

Sir Alex Ferguson, 2011[/quote]

We would want to believe that such ridiculous score lines are a one-off incident, but who knows the drama that will unfold this weekend?

We can very well use the clichéd way of calling this match the best defence versus the best attack. There is also the possibility that both teams might nullify each other, and fans and neutrals will be at the losing end.

But let’s remind ourselves again that this is a derby.

Anything can happen.

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.