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Monday, December 6, 2021

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Premier League grades: Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United turn in anemic attacking display against Man City

Manchester United against Manchester City is the kind of match that’s supposed to have it all. There are superstars on both sides, and it pits a legendary club against the new kings of the city with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin de Bruyne and a host of other big names. But only one team really even showed up. City’s 2-0 victory at Old Trafford over the Red Devils taught us plenty. It showed how City can need a bit of help at times in attack, winning on an own goal and a fortunate Bernardo Silva touch, but it also demonstrated the ability to destroy others with possession and passing, which they’ve become famous for. 

What was more telling was what it taught us about a United team just two weeks removed from that embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Liverpool. Once again they looked like a team more suited to be battling relegation than the top four. While not having Raphael Varane in defense played a role, the attack was as bad as it has been. How could it be with the additions of Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho that sometimes they are just worse than last season?

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Take a look at these numbers:

United’s three chances created were by far their worst of the season. Their previous low was seven against Wolves back in August. In fact, entering the game, United had been averaging double-digit chances created per game and even had 12 in that ugly loss to Liverpool.The Red Devils had five shots, not even coming close to double digits. They had recorded double digit shots in every league game this season before Saturday.Cristiano Ronaldo only had 27 touches, tied with David De Gea for fewest in the side. Mason Greenwood had one more and he came off in the 67th minute. Eric Bailly had one more and he came off at half time. The usual excuse for Ronaldo is that it doesn’t matter if he’s not involved since he’s scoring goals. But he only took one shot the entire match. There’s a limit to how little you can be involved and still be effective.The 33 percent possession they recorded was also by far their lowest. United have now lost the battle of possession in their last three league games after having won the battle in the seven games prior to the Liverpool clash. These are the stats of a team that has no ability to compete against good sides.Man. City 2, Man. United 0 (xG: 1.31-0.73)City grade: A-

United grade: F

Here are our grades for the rest of the games:

Norwich City 2, Brentford 1 (xG: 1.15-2.79)Norwich City

Finally got a quality result yet sacked their manager right after. Need a miracle to stay up and were fortunate here.

Grade: C


Unlucky. Dug themselves a hole they couldn’t get out of, but they didn’t play all that badly  and nearly reached an xG of three. Just couldn’t quite get the ball to stick in the back of the net.

Grade: C

Chelsea 1, Burnley 1 (xG: 2.28-0.82)Chelsea

Just one of those days. 25 shots yet couldn’t break down that Burnley defense enough.

Grade: D


They will take that. A classic Burnley match where they prioritize defending and steal a point. You don’t really want to see your defense first approach concede 2.28 xG, but when you get away with you can’t complain too much.

Grade: B+

Crystal Palace 2, Wolves 0 (xG: 1.81-0.28)Crystal Palace

Rather convincing from Patrick Vieira’s team. That’s now six unbeaten. Finding an identity and believing. Just overpowered a Wolves side that have themselves been impressive this seaosn.

Grade: A+


Were on a good run but just didn’t show up. Struggled with Palace’s physicality and created next to nothing.

Grade: D

Brighton 1, Newcastle 1 (xG: 1.41-0.37)Brighton

An opportunity wasted. Had the chances they needed but struggled against what is a horrid defense. Time to turn the page.

Grade: D


They need more than a point, but they will take it as they await a new manager. They have players going forward but very little creativity.

Grade: C-

Southampton 1, Aston Villa 0 (xG: 0.61-0.70)Southampton

Had to bend and not break in that second half. They started the match off well and it was enough. Mohammed Salisu continues to come up big in defense.

Grade: B

Aston Villa

Ollie Watkins is getting too far wide for my liking. Without Danny Ings, you need him to stay centrally and hope he can get on the end of something. Horrible run for Villa, and one that ultimately cost manager Dean Smith his job. Maybe whoever’s next can break this run of five straight losses.

Grade: D

West Ham 3, Liverpool 2 (xG: 1.00-1.46)West Ham

Thoroughly deserved. Had to hold on late, but this is their signature win and their announcement that they truly are top-four contenders. David Moyes’ side continues to put in top notch performances week after week.

Grade: A+


Got behind and couldn’t dig out of it. It’s a concern (or perhaps a credit to West Ham) that despite trailing for most of the match they couldn’t generate more than 1.46 in xG. On the defensive side, they got caught holding too high of a line, and they also conceded on two corners, which is very unlike the Liverpool we’re used to seeing. 

Grade: C

Leeds 1, Leicester 1 (xG: 1.56-0.80)Leeds

Another match where they had the chance to win yet couldn’t. Uncomfortably close to the relegation zone with an attack that is averaging just a goal a game.

Grade: C+


A point is a point, but they were outplayed and not consistently dangerous enough. That defense has conceded a goal in 10 straight matches.

Grade: C

Everton 0, Tottenham 0 (xG: 0.56-0.72)Everton

Had some decent looks but were never sharp enough in the middle. Fortunate to get a point in the end in what was an awful match. Limited Spurs chances, but Spurs haven’t been at creating much this season anyway, and it’s not like brand new manager Antonio Conte has had time to turn Spurs fortunes around yet.

Grade: D


Zero shots on target but almost won it late on a Gio Lo Celso strike that rocked off the left post. Other than they, they did nothing in attack. Their defense was solid, but against a defense first Everton approach, that’s not much to hang your hat on.

Grade: D

Arsenal 1, Watford 0 (xG: 1.50-0.43)Arsenal

Their streak of four games scoring multiple goals came to an end, but they won’t care. Emile Smith Rowe continues to be the heart and soul of this team. Don’t look now, but they are just two points back of the top four.

Grade: B


Four losses in their last five, and while they aren’t in the drop zone, it feels like they’ll be there before long. The attack is just so predicable and hasn’t scored in four of their last five games. How did they put five on Everton?

Grade: F

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