It is a statistic that paints Manchester United’s players in a poor light, regardless of whether it originates from the style of play or not.
In every single game this season, Jose Mourinho’s side have been out-run by their opponents. Not once have they managed more sprints than the other team, either.
At the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, expect more of the same. Considering the roadrunners of Manchester City, United risk being swamped by Pep Guardiola’s side.
Despite a star-studded squad, Jose Mourinho cannot get sprints from his players
DISTANCE RUN BY UNITED IN 2018-19
105.2km vs Leicester’s 107.2km
99.5km vs Brighton’s 108.5km
109.2km vs Tottenham’s 119.4km
105.1km vs Burnley’s 111.7km
107.5km vs Watford’s 112.3km
111.3km vs Wolves’ 114.2km
106.9km vs West Ham’s 108.3km
113.3km vs Newcastle’s 120.2km
108km vs Chelsea’s 113.5km
112.2km vs Everton’s 116km
112km vs Bournemouth’s 116.9km
This season, City have amassed 1,341 sprints in total. United languish on 1,072 and only Fulham, Crystal Palace and a sluggish-looking Burnley have scraped together fewer.
When in possession, Guardiola has his players exploit space with runs. On the rare occasions they are without the ball, they press until they have it back.
Mourinho does not demand the same at United, or at least he does not enforce it as well.
In the Premier League, United are the fourth worst side at stopping opponents from progressing up the pitch.
On average, they allow teams to advance 13.9 metres per move.
Even Fulham, Cardiff and Huddersfield, the bottom three, fare better.
City, on the other hand, boast the third best, behind Tottenham then Chelsea.
Only Fulham, Crystal Palace and Burnley have amassed fewer sprints than United this season
SPRINTS IN 2018-19
1345 – Liverpool
1341 – Man City
1329 – Arsenal
1298 – Bournemouth
1279 – Everton
1242 – Leicester
1235 – Huddersfield
1204 – Chelsea
1204 – Newcastle
1177 – Southampton
1168 – Tottenham
1158 – West Ham
1132 – Cardiff
1121 – Watford
1102 – Brighton
1076 – Wolves
1072 – Man Utd
1049 – Fulham
1039 – Crystal Palace
989 – Burnley
United earned their Champions League comeback at Juventus in midweek, showing significant spirit, yet their lack of energy has been evident several times this season.
In the return leg last month, won 1-0 by Juve, United were remarkably passive. They sat back and watched the visitors enjoy 71 per cent possession in the first half at Old Trafford.
Mourinho used his post-match press conference to send a message.
‘To go to the Juventus level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? How can you reach that level? Manchester City level? How can you reach this level?’ He asked, almost rhetorically.
The answer, he went on to explain, was to buy the best players.
‘Juventus are always a big candidate in the European competitions but the investment they made shows they want to win it this time,’ he added.
Yet Mourinho has not been shy of spending since moving to Manchester in 2016. In two years, he has spent just short of £360million, with Paul Pogba an £89m chunk of that.
Guardiola has spent significantly more in that same period – £515m to be exact – and City are now under scrutiny as a result of Football Leak’s revelations.
Still, the Spaniard identified where he needed to strengthen and his recruitment turned them into record-breaking champions of England.
Guardiola realised their need for a new goalkeeper, so signed Ederson for £35m. He required a right-back, so bought Kyle Walker for £50m. Under him, City have had more hits than misses.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have made 1,341 sprints, compared to 1,072 of United
Mourinho has not been blessed by the same strokes of luck. He is still waiting for several stars to show their worth, with Alexis Sanchez one of the culprits.
Recently, it has seemed as if United only come to life once trailing. Only once they are forced on to the front foot, they cause their opponents problems.
It happened against Newcastle (2-0 down then win 3-2) and Bournemouth (1-0 down then win 2-1) in the Premier League. Juve fell to the same fate in the Champions League, ruining the chances they had to make it three or four long before Juan Mata’s late equaliser.
Now, the club with the biggest wage bill in England enter Sunday’s showdown as underdogs.
If they are to inflict a first defeat on City this season, a great deal of endeavour is needed. Certainly more than they have shown in previous Premier League games.