Man Utd boss Ralf Rangnick bemused by toothlessness from corners

Manchester United have not scored directly from a corner in the Premier League for a year – so what is causing the barren run?

“This is really a little bit weird.” That was Ralf Rangnick’s assessment of the statistical quirk which places his side bottom of the pile for goal threat from corners.

“In the end, this is a question of training time, but is also a question of deliveries,” he added. “We have players who should be technically able to deliver the balls in the right way.

“We still need to improve in those areas [and] be more dangerous and effective from set-pieces. It’s a question of training but it’s also a question of quality of deliveries – even more so when it’s free-kicks from the side or corner kicks.”

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On paper, United have been attributed two league goals from corners over the past 12 months, but one of those came from a Craig Dawson own goal against West Ham in March and the other came one phase after a corner against Burnley in April.

Data provider Opta registered the strike as a goal from a corner because the defending team were still in their defensive shape from the initial dead-ball delivery and United’s centre-backs were also still in the box.

Man Utd last scored directly from a corner in the Premier League one year ago with a Harry Maguire header during a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United

What do the key stats say?

According to the official corner stats, covering teams that have maintained top-flight status over the past two seasons, Liverpool lead the way with 14 goals from 136 shots taken after corners, followed by West Ham (12 goals). Manchester City (11) and Newcastle (10).

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At the other end of the scale, Crystal Palace join United with a league-low two goals, which is perhaps surprising with aerial master Christian Benteke within the ranks. United’s numbers for shots from corners are also damning – only Everton and Palace have attempted fewer.

To provide further context, Manchester City and Liverpool have taken the most corners – a consequence of enjoying the highest average proportions of possession over the period – but United still rank joint-seventh with 210 corners.

When those figures are combined into a goal ratio, the issue is clear: United officially have a league-low 0.95 per cent goal threat from corners – and, as previously mentioned, it could be argued the true value is zero.

So what’s going on?

Want to drill down deeper? If we look at the success ratio for corners fired into the opposition box and finding a team-mate, United appear relatively strong with 58 out of 191 completed.

That equates to a success rate of almost one in three – only five clubs rank higher in this metric. So, are United actually creating chances but struggling to convert them?

Luke Shaw has been the primary corner-taker at United over the past year and his ratio of success with crosses into the box is 33.7 per cent – comparable with the best in the division.

The England left-back, who has been benched twice recently between injuries and suspension, has also created 26 chances from corners over the period – only Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Ward-Prowse, Pascal Gross and Mason Mount have carved more in the Premier League.

So who is getting on the end of these chances? Harry Maguire has now racked up a team-topping 16 shots from corners to no avail over the past year – only Craig Dawson, Antonio Rudiger, Aymeric Laporte and Joel Matip have attempted more.

Okay, but let’s add xG

In another twist, if we add expected goals data to the mix for an even deeper level of analysis, the root cause of the issue appears to divert back towards positioning and movement – failing to create space and capitalise on second balls.

The graphic below compares maps of shots taken from corners by Maguire and Rudiger during the period and shows how the latter has scored two of his three goals by converting easier chances from inside the six-yard box.

In contrast, Maguire has taken all of his shots from outside the six-yard box – and all have been classified as difficult chances to convert, according to xG.

Image: Man Utd last scored directly from a corner in the Premier League one year ago with a Harry Maguire header during a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United

Shaw’s typical corner delivery, landing close to the penalty spot, is common – to avoid goalkeepers plucking crosses. For example, even Alexander-Arnold has created only two chances from deliveries into the six-yard box – from a total of 150 corners taken over the past year.

Image: Luke Shaw's typical corner is an outswinger

Therefore, the data suggests United might benefit from being more aggressive in the box, pipping markers and goalkeepers, winning second balls and maybe even the odd teasing inswinger.

xG deficit

Harry Maguire has not scored a goal in the Premier League over the past year. Expected goals data suggests the 28-year-old should have scored 1.6 goals.

Summing up…

However, United’s dearth of goals from corners is certainly ‘weird’, particularly when factoring in the prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo and Maguire’s aerial power.

One thing is for certain, United are not currently represented in the table-topping list for scorers from corners over the year, with Everton forward Richarlison leading the way on four, ahead of Callum Wilson, Lewis Dunk, Che Adams and Rudiger (all with three).

Rangnick will surely be aiming to introduce new routines after his remarks on the issue, while fit-again Paul Pogba boosts United’s threat and Maguire will be hunting to break his year-long goal drought.

So maybe a holistic blend of fortune, fitness, luck, movement, tactics and training will correct the statistical anomaly…

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