The 2022/23 Premier League season is around the corner and for Manchester United after the torrid 2021/22 season, this season is another step backwards for the English giant. Yet with Erik ten Hag appointed as their new manager and the promise of new arrivals, the Red Devils have cause for optimism.
How well did Manchester United do in the 2021/22 Premier League season?
Saying that Manchester United’s 2021/22 season was terrible might be an understatement but saying it was the worst season in their history, might be an overreach. And yet, this was their worst Premier League season as they finished sixth, managed to get only 58 points and nearly sacked not just their permanent manager but also their interim. However, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go especially after they signed Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet the Frenchman was barely ever fit, the Englishman struggled to adapt under two different managers who had different ideas on how to play him while struggling to figure out how to play him while the Portuguese superstar scored goals. But there is an overwhelming consensus that United went down the hill as a team because of Ronaldo although that is neither here or there. In the end, the only reason that Manchester United aren’t playing Europa Conference League football is that West Ham United dropped the ball.
But then again when a club finishes the league season with 16 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses, it rarely amounts to a good season or a good finish on the league table. As if that wasn’t enough, United had the eighth-best goals scored record (57) with the sixth-best xG (54.8) alongside the sixth-best xG per 90 (1.44). Combined that with their fifth best assists per 90 (1.07), the fact that they completed the fifth most key passes (397) with the eighth best goals per shot on target (0.30) while possessing the sixth best npxg or non-penalty xG (51.0) shows why they struggled.
Yet while their offence was, on average, the sixth best in the league, their defence might have been a few tiers below that as United finished with the eighth-worst goals against record (57). As if that wasn’t enough, they had the fifth worst PSxG (Post-Shot Expected Goals) (60.7) although their PSxG+/- (Post-Shot Expected Goals minus goals allowed) was a +6.7.
That means United handing David De Gea their player of the season award wasn’t enough as he stopped the club from conceding at least six more goals, a tally bettered by only Wolves and Jose Sa. Although that didn’t help him keep any clean sheets as United finished with the fifth worst clean sheet percentage (21.1%). Furthermore, the Red Devils committed the sixth most errors leading to a shot (12), committed the tenth most fouls (474) and had the eighth worst successful pressure percentage (28.8%).
Yet despite all that, Manchester United still finished with a Points per Match played tally of 1.53 although even that was some distance off Arsenal and Tottenham, who are within spitting distance of each other.
Improvements they’ve made so far:
A brand new manager for one in the form of Erik ten Hag, the former messiah of Ajax and the very man who turned the Dutch giants from an average team to one that nearly reached a Champions League final. No ordinary feat given that they beat reigning champs Real Madrid along the way in that run but there’s no denying that United appointing Ten Hag is a coup. But the real question is whether they give their new boss the time, money and effort he’ll need to turn this squad around.
So far, they have with the arrivals of Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez but Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard’s departures leave holes that need to be filled. That is something United haven’t even come close to filling yet although a dream move for Frenkie de Jong is reportedly on the horizon provided the club can convince him to leave Barcelona despite the fact that he doesn’t want to and ignore the fact that they (Barcelona) owe him millions.
Even then, signing De Jong won’t cover all their problems as the lack of a proper defensive midfielder will indubitably hurt the club as it has in the past. But Martinez’s arrival to help Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof in defence will be a boon especially given the talent he possesses. And yet, the bigger problem could be Cristiano Ronaldo as reports, and his agent, have indicated that the forward has no intention of staying at Old Trafford any longer.
Losing him would hurt the team, especially given the fact that he scored quite a few goals last season, but replacing him would mean spending more money on another spot. Not quite the situation that Erik ten Hag expected to be walking into but it’s the one he has got.
How well could Manchester United do in the 2022/23 Premier League season?
This is a tricky one because, at the moment, nobody has any idea what on earth Manchester United could do and that’s a list that most definitely includes even their most loyal fans. This team, on paper, should be a top-six competitor at best but given that it is Erik ten Hag’s first season in a new country, at a new team and in a new league, it means that things could go haywire.
Not only that, they haven’t made any major signings beyond filling a few positions that they needed and even then, United have taken their own cool time with them. Their chase for Frenkie de Jong could very well go down to deadline day and it does mean that whoever arrives now, will have no pre-season. That alone could hurt new arrivals but more importantly, it hurts the team and that could drop their floor to a top eight spot. Their ceiling is a tricky one too, because again new manager and all that, so nobody has any clue.
It should, and very likely will, be a top six place but should Arsenal and Tottenham collapse then things could happen. Even then, United fighting for a top four spot might be out of their reach unless they somehow manage to sign a defensive midfielder, a new right-back, a new forward and squad players for every other position over the next month or so. Yet even if they do manage to do that, then it’s unlikely beyond a collapse from Tottenham, Arsenal and/or Chelsea.