Revealed: Opta data bodes well for Ole's United
Opta data shows that Manchester United covered more distance than Chelsea during Sunday's 4-0 Premier League win at Old Trafford - and that will be music to the ears of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In an effort to amend that, Solskjaer worked the squad hard during pre-season by regularly holding double training sessions. The positive effects began to show in the six preparatory fixtures in Australia, Asia and Europe, yet the real impact was arguably seen at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday.
United ran out 4-0 winners against old rivals Chelsea in the first competitive match of 2019/20 and while the margin of victory was perhaps a little harsh on the Blues, who registered more possession and shots, the Reds were still worthy victors on the day, thanks to some hard work and effective finishing.
Interestingly, we can confirm that Opta data shows United covered 107.89 kilometres throughout the much-anticipated match, topping Chelsea's 106.63 kilometres.
Highlights: United 4 Chelsea 0Video
“This is a work in progress and the lads have been excellent from 1 July – before then actually, because they were fit enough [when they returned from holiday] for them to implement what we wanted them to.
“We know it’s just the start and there are relationships to be worked on. The more we understand each other and get to play with each other, and show that we’re a team, the more it’s going to improve.”
With the fixtures spread relatively kindly in the coming weeks, with United not in action until next Monday's game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, the boss is looking forward to overseeing further hard training sessions.
“We need to improve and we’re going to improve because we’ve just had six weeks at it,”he said.“We’ve worked the players and now [in the] next three weeks we’ve still got a week in between the games so there’ll still be lots of work to do both tactically and physically.”
Club reporter and commentator Stewart Gardner writes...
When darkness fell in Perth during our pre-season tour, there was a familiar sight - looking across the Swan River from the team hotel, you would see those vast, trademark floodlights that loom above the WACA shining brightly. It meant the United lads were being put through their paces for the second time that day – it was a double session and those 10 days in Western Australia were full of them.
It was plain to see that Ole wanted to manage a fitter squad this season and the end result was what we all saw at Old Trafford on Sunday - a pressing, energetic United side that was unrelenting for 90 minutes. I thought the Reds got stronger as the game went on and, eventually, just wore Chelsea down.
After scoring two of our four goals, Marcus Rashford told me that the improved fitness levels made a big difference.
“Yes, 100 per cent they did,”he said.
“That’s something all around the squad. I think every single player has got fitter over pre-season and that’s the ideal situation you want to be in. That’s the perfect way you want to start the season in terms of physicality. But there is more things we can do on the ball to build on that and compliment the hard work even more so. It’s a good start to the season but we can still see the areas that we can improve.”
Rashford reflects on his award-winning displayVideo
And that was the key message from the dressing room after the game - United can improve. A first four-goal performance at Old Trafford in 2019 is quite a start to the campaign, but everyone felt the performance could have been even better and nobody is getting carried away.
The resilience and calm showed by Harry Maguire, plus the energy and pure love of tackling exhibited by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, indicate that United’s defensive record should improve this season, while the youthful exuberance of the forward line looks a challenge for any opposition.
Speaking of youthful exuberance, what an experience for Dan James! A few observers inside Old Trafford may have had something in their eye when he celebrated so emotionally after his goal - his family will be so proud.
It’s been a while since the stadium was bouncing like it was against Chelsea. It was the perfect start, but just the beginning. There is more to come, with bigger challenges around the corner, but for now at least, let’s just enjoy seeing a team that’s fun to watch.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United.