Man Utd’s unbeaten run compared to 2002-03 vintage under Fergie
Manchester United may be on a run of 20 consecutive league matches without a defeat – but Jose Mourinho’s men have a long way to go to match the dominance of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side between 2002 and 2003.
The Red Devils are undefeated in the Premier League since October yet remain outside of the top four due to a litany of draws.
Tuesday’s 1-1 tie with Everton was the 10th of this run, with United’s form at Old Trafford – where they have also dropped points against the likes of Burnley, West Ham, Hull, Bournemouth and West Brom – a particular concern for Mourinho.
In fact, as highlighted by Sky Sports, United’s current unbeaten streak is the least prolific in Premier League history in terms of points taken per game.
Of the 15 times a team has gone on a run of at least 20 games unbeaten, United’s record two of points per game is the lowest return.
By comparison, United’s team of 15 years ago collected 2.71 points per game over 21 games, winning 18 of them.
A 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day of 2002 – their second defeat in four days after a 1-0 loss at Blackburn – left Fergie’s United seven points behind leaders Arsenal in the Premier League.
However, they ended the calendar year with a 2-0 win over Birmingham – thanks to goals from Diego Forlan and David Beckham, but equally due to two excellent saves from Fabien Barthez – and would go until August 2003 without a league defeat.
The obvious difference between the Manchester United sides of then and now is the amount of goalscoring options Ferguson could rely on in comparison to Mourinho.
Speaking after the latest stalemate with Everton, Mourinho rued: “We don’t score enough goals, it is as simple as that.
“The pragmatism is – how many goals have Rashford, Lingard, Mkhitaryan, Herrera, Pogba scored? How many goals from these attacking players? Not enough.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the only regular goal threat Mourinho has been able to rely on this season, whereas Ferguson had the choice of Ruud van Nistelrooy (44 goals in all competitions in his debut campaign), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (15 goals) or Diego Forlan (nine goals) to lead his line.
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Plus, Paul Scholes (20 goals), Ryan Giggs (14 goals) and David Beckham (11 goals) were all regular contributors from midfield. Juan Mata is the only midfielder to reach double figures for Mourinho’s men, and the Spaniard could miss the rest of the season through injury.
Following the win over Birmingham in December 2002, United would drop points on only three occasions before the end of the season as they overturned the deficit to secure the title with one game left to spare.
Among the highlights were a 2-1 win over Chelsea, courtesy of Forlan’s 93rd-minute goal, a 4-0 rout of Liverpool, a 6-2 thrashing of Newcastle, and the 4-1 win over Charlton in which Van Nistelrooy’s hat-trick secured the title.
Speaking after the win over Chelsea, Ferguson said: “We are right behind Arsenal now and if we keep knocking on the door, hopefully it will open.”
That side, whose run was eventually ended by James Beattie’s 88th-minute winner for Southampton the following season, emphatically knocked the door down. Mourinho’s men, in contrast, are still turning the handle.