Which of these records sounds the superior one to you?
- Played 14, Won 7, Drawn 7, lost 0
- Played 14, Won 9, Drawn 1, Lost 4
Ok, those of you not drunk will have spotted that these two records amount to the same amount of points. But I think psychologically, the first record looks instinctively superior because there is a zero in the lost column.
Any side which can claim to be unbeaten looks to be on pretty good form whereas a side that has lost nearly 30% of its game looks like it’s off the pace.
This is the dilemma that Manchester United find themselves in. Sure, they go into this weekend unbeaten this season, but this alternative way to break the points down shows how less stellar this form actually is.
Draws are stealth bombers to a clubs’ title challenge and can all too easily wreck a campaign. They mask inadequacy all too easily by preserving the unbeaten status. I keep hearing pundits commenting positively on how United’s form has not been good yet they’re still unbeaten as though this makes it alright. It isn’t. It is hiding a deeper malaise – the inability to win games. A 50% win ratio is not title winning form even in this more unpredictable season.
Unbeaten runs can also offer another danger. When you do eventually lose that pristine, virginal zero in the loss column, it can hurt confidence to a greater degree than would be the case if you’d won a couple more and lost a couple. It’s quite often the case that a long unbeaten run is followed by a couple of losses in short order.
In United’s favour is their tradition of not sitting back in games; a tradition that has been so successful at converting draws into wins in the past. This season it has been deployed more often to turn losses into draws.
You can prove anything with statistics of course and the league table doesn’t lie. United are still in a tremendous position despite their lack lustre form. But being unbeaten isn’t always a blessing