Louis van Gaal was tasked at the beginning of the season with rebuilding the fear factor of Manchester United. His task, plain and simple, was to bring back the awe and bone-shivering fear opponents once had when they learned they would be facing the Red Devils.
Progress is evident, but many fingers are being pointed at the defense for the various short-comings this season. However, statistics show that may not be the case at all.
Mean at the Theatre again
Last season saw many opponents coming to Old Trafford with the expectation to win, and that they did. This season has been markedly different and it seems the fear of traveling to the Theatre of Dreams has once again returned.
United have managed 22 goals in 10 games at home for a concession of only seven, placing them quite similar to Manchester City and Chelsea. Away form is where it all seems to go off the rails.
Poor on the travels
United have conceded just 13 goals away from Sir Matt Busby Lane; a number quite competitive in the classier section of the table. The real problem is at the other end where they have scored just 12 times; the second lowest among the top eight teams in England.
Even with major injury problems United hold the fourth meanest defense in England, which begs the question how a team with stars like Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney can't score on the road.
According to Squawka stats Manchester United have only created 195 chances this season, a full 90 less than City. United have also had only 83 chances away from home. Their goal to chance conversion rate is amiable, slightly better than City's in fact, so the strikers aren't the focal point, leaving only the midfield to blame.
United enjoy more than 50% of the ball during matches on average, but from the statistics we find that they do not create very many chances and this is down to passive play. For large parts United play laterally and lack any sort of penetration. For all of their possession their most satisfying attacking play comes on the counter, which is all good and well, however as a major club dominance is expected, as Van Gaal has so publicly voiced.
It does mean that United's problems can be solved with more direct attacking football, more risk taking for greater reward from the likes of Michael Carrick and Juan Mata. A few classy centre-backs won't hurt though.
All in all United's dreadful away form can be put down to mentality over personnel. Hopefully the flowing attacking play United fans grew up on will return at the away from home because it seems alive and well at the Stretford End. It may not be long before the tune of "Glory, Glory, Man United" will welcome a trophy back in the Theatre of Dreams.