“You can go for stats, that’s the way people who don’t understand football analyse football,” said Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by Manchester City.
Well Jose, we’ve looked at them anyway.
League leaders and reigning champions City are 12 points ahead of United, who languish in eighth after their derby loss.
BBC Sport chief football writer Phil McNulty said there is a “gulf in class” between the blue and red side of Manchester, and the stats Mourinho so dislikes seem to suggest this.
Man Utd firmly in mid-table
“I think we are not going to be relegated,” Mourinho said when asked about their title hopes.
But he’s not as far from the danger zone as he thinks. United are also 12 points from Cardiff in 18th, the same distance as they are from City at the top.
Mourinho continues to set unwanted records. The City loss was United’s fourth in the league this season – the first time they have lost that many in their opening 12 games since the 1990-91 season, when they finished sixth in the old First Division.
Last season, when they finished second, it took them to January to lose four league games, a 2-0 defeat by Tottenham in their 25th match.
Case for the defence
Goalkeeper David de Gea beat Manchester City counterpart Ederson last year to the Premier League Golden Glove, with 19 clean sheets to the Brazilian’s 18.
It’s highly unlikely he will repeat the feat this year, with just one blank this season – only Fulham, without a clean sheet, have a worse record.
Since that 3-2 comeback win against Newcastle on 6 October, Mourinho has named an unchanged back four in the last four league games, with Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young starting every match. Centre-back Eric Bailly, signed for £30m in 2016, has not got a look in after he was subbed in the 19th minute, with United 2-0 down to the Magpies.
But consistency in selection has not stopped the goals. Only four other sides in the league have conceded more this season – Fulham (31), Huddersfield (22), Cardiff (25) and Burnley (25).
It’s a different story a few miles up the road from Old Trafford at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s side share the fewest goals conceded (five) and most clean sheets (seven) with Liverpool.
Romelu Lukaku’s problems up front, with four league goals, contrast with City’s frontman Sergio Aguero, who tops the goal charts after he scored against United to take his tally to eight for the season.
Anthony Martial is United’s top scorer in the league with six, the same amount as City’s Raheem Sterling.
But overall, United are way behind Guardiola’s free scoring side.
Back to the 70s
So conceding a lot and not scoring much equals not a great goal difference.
In fact, this is the first time since 1977-78 that United have a negative goal difference after 12 games of a top-flight season – Baccara were top of the charts with Yes Sir, I Can Boogie. (Who? Exactly.)
So what could this mean for the season?
Sports data company Gracenote, which ranks European clubs, has Man City at an all-time high of fourth in Europe after beating United, who are down in 12th.
The rankings are produced from results over the past four seasons, but the most recent campaign carries a weight of about two-thirds.
“The last time an English club were in the Euro Club Index top four was towards the end of the 2012-2013 season when Manchester United were fourth under Sir Alex Ferguson,” said Gracenote’s head of sports analysis Simon Gleave.
“Manchester United’s decline was sharp after Ferguson’s departure and they had already dropped out of the Euro Club Index top 10 in their first season without their legendary Scottish manager. Manchester United eventually dropped as low as 19th in March 2016 before something of a recovery began which has taken them up to 12th place now.”
Gracenote are currently projecting City to be champions and finish on 91 points, with United in fifth place, 20 points behind them.
That would mean United finishing behind City for a sixth straight season.