Is THIS the reason for United's sub-standard form?

Manchester United manager David Moyes intends on rectifying statistics in upcoming matches.

If Manchester United want to improve on their performances and, as a consequence, their results, then they must keep the ball more than they have been doing in the current campaign, according to David Moyes, who has called on the reigning Premier League champions to ensure they have more of the ball than their Wednesday evening Champions League opponents Real Sociedad.

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'We want to improve on our performance… we gave the ball away too much in our last game [against Southampton],' said Moyes, as reported by the club's official website. 'We have to do better when we have the ball in our possession. We've had periods of good play but not continually through a game. It's something we're working on.'

At Old Trafford on October 19, United were indeed out-possessed by Southampton, who had 54% of the ball throughout the 90 minutes compared to United's 46%. This statistic is in danger of becoming a leit motif for Moyes' men as their October form has seen their ability to maintain possession slip. Against Shakhtar Donetsk, they only had 43% of the ball compared to their host's 57% and even in the slim 1-0 triumph over Liverpool recently, it was Brendan Rodgers' team who had 53% of possession compared to United's 47%.

Individually, however, there are a number of players with a highly commendable accuracy when it comes to passing… Tom Cleverly, for instance, has been successful with over 90% of his 328 passes in 399 minutes of competitive Premier League football. Marouane Fellaini completes 89% of his passes, Michael Carrick enjoys an 86% success rate, while the central defenders have an 88% average.

What is perhaps letting the side down, is the inability to hold onto the ball when in their opponent's half. United defenders see a sharp 10-12% decrease in passing accuracy when entering their opponent's half, something that is actually widespread throughout the division, however, Wayne Rooney has completed a mere 62% of passes in the opponent's half with Robin van Persie just 66%.

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Local rivals Manchester City fare better. Sergio Aguero's passes meet their target 80% of the time when in the opposition's half and Liverpool's Luis Suarez sees 75% of his passes completed in the opponent's half which leaves United's strike force at a direct comparison to Chelsea's mis-firing attackers as Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o both share similar statistics at 65% and 67%, respectively.

'We're trying to improve all the time,' added Moyes. 'There have been moments of play which have been excellent and a couple of inches one way or another and we may have scored some more goals. We have to hope that turns for us. But we also have to keep working hard to make sure it does.'

United have a chance of changing their own fortunes this evening, as they take on Real Sociedad, a side who are struggling both domestically (12th in La Liga) and in Europe (bottom of Group A in Champions League, with no points).

'Real Sociedad are here because they finished in the top four in Spain, which is a great achievement. We have great respect for them for that. Maybe we'd have liked to have start the season a bit better and they'll come here trying to do well. So we know it will be a difficult game. I'm sure they're expecting a difficult match as well.'

image: © Andrea Sartorati

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