Do Man United get easy fixtures to start a Premier League season?
The start of the season is already being anticipated with the latest batch of fixtures released for the upcoming Premier League campaign. Every year the FPL community and professional football pundits start talking up Manchester United for glory, so we took some time to investigate if Manchester United's recent league starts to the season justify the praise and hype that the Red Devil's receive.
Our investigation into Man United's early season fixtures will span the past 3 seasons (14/15, 15/16, 17/18). We'll be gahering up the facts behind the myth that United get favourable fixtures to start each and every season, and then provide a verdict based on our findings. Let's start by taking a look at how the red side of Manchester has started over a three season period.
2014/15 - Premier League Campaign
GW1: L: Man United 1-2 Swansea
GW2: D: Sunderland 1-1 Man United
GW3: D: Burnley 0-0 Man United
GW4: W: Man United 4-0 QPR
GW5: L: Leicester 5-3 Man United
GW6: W: Man United 2-1 West Ham
GW7: W: Man United 2-1 Everton
GW8: D: West Brom 2-2 Man United
Clean Sheets: 2
2015/16 - Premier League Campaign
GW1: W: Man United 1-0 Spurs
GW2: W: Aston Villa 0-1 Man United
GW3: D: Man United 0-0 Newcastle
GW4: L: Swansea 2-1 Man United
GW5: W: Man United 3-1 Liverpool
GW6: W: Southampton 2-3 Man United
GW7: W: Man United 3-0 Sunderland
GW8: L: Arsenal 3-0 Man United
Clean Sheets: 4
2016/17 - Premier League Campaign
GW1: W: Bournemouth 0-3 Man United
GW2: W: Man United 2-0 Southampton
GW3: W: Hull City 0-1 Man United
GW4: L: Man United 1-2 Man City
GW5: L: Watford 3-1 Man United
GW6: W: Man United 4-1 Leicester
GW7: D: Man United 1-1 Stoke City
GW8: D: Liverpool 0-0 Man United
Clean Sheets: 4
2017/18 - Premier League Campaign
GW1: Man United vs. West Ham
GW2: Swansea vs. Man United
GW3: Man United vs. Leicester City
GW4: Stoke vs. Manchester City
GW5: Man United vs. Everton
GW6: Southampton vs. Man United
GW7: Man United vs. Crystal Palace
GW8: Liverpool vs. Man United
The Stats: Past Three Seasons
Goals Total: 41
Goals Average: 1.7 goals a game
Clean Sheets: 10/24
Games Blanked (Didn't Score Themselves): 3
Total Games: 24
Total Wins: 12/24 (50%)
Total Draws: 6/24 (25%)
Total Losses: 6/24 (25%)
Home Games: 12
Home Game Wins: 8/12 (66%)
Home Game Draws: 2/12 (16%)
Home Game Losses: 2/12 (16%)
Away Games: 12
Away Game Wins: 4/12 (33%)
Away Game Draws: 4/12 (33%)
Away Game Losses: 4/12 (33%)
Home Clean Sheets: 5 (50%)
Away Clean Sheets: 5 (50%)
Factual Breakdown: Manchester United First Eight Games
Games Against 'Top Six':
2014/15: Everton (GW7)
2015/16: Spurs (GW1), Liverpool (GW5), Arsenal (GW8)
2016/17: Southampton (GW2) Man City (GW4), Leicester (GW6), Liverpool (GW8)*
2017/18: Liverpool (GW8)
Games against 'Top Six': 9/32
*Liverpool finished 8th in 2015/16, however they are considered a tough fixture and direct rival against Manchester United.
Opponents faced during first eight games
West Ham: 2
West Brom: 1
Spurs: 1 Aston Villa: 1 Newcastle: 1
Hull City: 1
Man City: 1
Crystal Palace: 1
United's First 10 Fixtures Facts (including 2017/18 season fixtures):
1. Man United have faced Swansea, Liverpool, Leicester, and Southampton; in their first eight games three times in the past four seasons.
2. Man United have faced Stoke, Everton, West Ham, and Sunderland; twice in the past four seasons.
3. Manchester United have faced twelve teams only once in the opening eight games of the past four seasons.
4. The Manchester 'Derby' will have only occurred once in the past four seasons in the opening eight games of the season. They lost this encounter.
5. The only team from the category of 'Top Six' that Man United have faced more than once in the past four seasons is their bitter rivals, Liverpool.
6. Manchester United have never faced Chelsea in their opening eight games of the past four seasons. Additionally they have only faced Spurs, Man City, and Arsenal once a piece in the opening run of fixtures.
7. During the seasons pf 2015/16 and 2016/17 Man United did not have consecutive 'difficult' games against the 'Top Six' category teams. The fixtures schedule always separated them.
8. Of the past three seasons before 2017/18 the clean sheets that Manchester United keep are normally done in bulk. Three in a row during the opening of both 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons, and two in a row during GW3 and GW4 of the 2014/15 campaign make up eight of the ten clean sheets kept in these twenty-four fixtures.
9. Man United have lost two games in the opening games fixtures for the past three seasons, they appear to have a habit lose a quarter of their games in the early period.
10. The only time Man United did not score in their six losses was during 2015/16 against Arsenal in GW8.
11. Man United have been given a fair number of home and away games in the opening set of fixtures. Sixteen on either side of the draw. Balanced, stable, and consistent.
12. Man United have had three of their past four seasons playing at Old Trafford to kick off the season, the Premier League appear keen on giving them a home start.
13. Interestingly, and contrary to popular belief; Man United do not face a promoted team in 2017/18 in their opening eight fixtures. But they do travel to Huddersfield in GW9 for this honour, it will also be the first time the two teams face in the Premier League.
14. During the 2016/17 campaign Manchester United had an identical record in their four home and away games: two wins, one draw, and one loss.
15. The only time Man United went undefeated in their first four home games was in 2015/16 when they picked up three wins and a draw. The manager in charge was Luis van Gaal.
16. In the past three seasons Man United had a steady record of playing away from home with four losses, draws, and wins. The Red Devil's much prefer home soil in the opening of the campaign.
17. Man United have won exactly fifty percent of the games in the past three seasons. They also have an equal number of draws and losses.
18. Man United have an equal number of clean sheets away from home as they do at Old Trafford. It is worth pointing out that under Jose Mourinho they preferred to keep it tight at the back away from home and concede more on home soil.
19. Man United have scored in seven of their opening eight games in the past three seasons, only being denied by Burnley in 14/15, Arsenal in 15/16, and Liverpool in 16/17. The only game they lost was the fixture against Arsenal.
Mythbusting Man United: Verdict
Contrary to belief of pundits who believe they win every game as an unstoppable colossal the Red Devil's are actually very inconsistent. No longer are they the blood hounds that roamed the league under the tutelage of Alex Ferguson. Since Fergie has departed they are only winning half of their opening games to begin the season. Regardless of who who have in charge the numbers don't lie: the Red Devil's are consistent. They will win some, lose some, and draw some. You can expect a bit of everything from Manchester United, and that has always been their problem in a way. This consistent inconsistency isn't a huge factor for encouragement within the FPL universe because you just cannot trust their performances to always get you points, especially when their players are overpriced due to the badge their players wear. In the past two seasons they admittedly start strong, keep clean sheets, but later on they start to crack and get back to becoming inconsistent again. There are usually small margins to be won or lost within Man United, and long time players of the FPL will understand that it is tough to win big with United assets in your team, especially when there are better options available in other teams.
The Europa League didn't help their chances last year, so there is optimism that they can improve now they don't have inconvenient Thursday night European commitments on muddy fields in the heart of Russia. Mourinho also likes to rotate his team if it doesn't work for him, which doesn't bode a lot of confidence for finding consistency. The glaring fact of the matter is that Man United always have a softer fixture list to kick off the season, but the even bigger problem is that they can never truly capitalise on it which has hurt their chances of challenging for the Premier League title. We expect more of the same this time round, and nobody within The Hype Train is truly behind the negative football that Mourinho inspires into his squad, so it will once again be a matter of trying to find the small margins within their team to bank on for the coming season. The Red Devil's won't to great, they won't fail, they will most likely continue as they have been doing for the past three seasons.
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