West Ham vs Manchester United: Are Sam Allardyce's side actually playing more attactive football than United?

ANALYSIS: Louis van Gaal resorted to long-ball tactics in the 1-1 draw at Upton Park

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The Independent Football

Sam Allardyce couldn't resist a joke about Manchester United's long-ball tactics following Sunday's 1-1 draw at Upton Park.

The West Ham manager has been criticised for his use of direct tactics throughout his career, but yesterday it was Manchester United who had to use the tactic to salvage something from the game.

On 72 minutes Marouane Fellaini was introduced and the long balls began being pumped up field. It was a switch that paid dividends when Daley Blind scored a 90th minute equaliser.

“You might just criticise Louis Van Gaal for playing long ball as much as I’m sometimes criticised for being direct," said Allardyce. "In the end it’s paid off for them. You can’t knock it in the end!"

West Ham have been commended for an improved style of play this season, something that's seen them establish a serious challenge for European football. But are they playing better football than the most successful team in British football history? Is it possible that Allardyce has instilled a style of play easier on the eye than a team comprising world stars including Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria?

Daley Blind and Marouane Fellaini celebrate Manchester United's late goal against West Ham


Analysis shows that despite Manchester United being mauled for their performance at Upton Park, Van Gaal's side actually had a better pass completion rate than their opponents - 78 per cent to 69 per cent. They also created more chances (10 to 8), had more shots (18 to 13) and saw more attempts to take on their opponents (14 to 12).

Those figures suggest that Manchester United in many ways played 'better' football than West Ham yesterday - more shots, more chances and a higher pass completion rate. But what about across the season?


Manchester United score a higher number of goals per Premier League game (1.67 to 1.5), have a better pass completion rate (85 per cent to 76 per cent) and make more passes (529.96 per game to 364.58 per game). When it come to the average pass length, statistics generated by Squawka.com show that West Ham's is 20.53m whilst Manchester United's is 19.35m.

However, the long-ball statistics are somewhat confusing as whilst West Ham on average make longer passes, Manchester United actually attempt more long balls per game. Van Gaal's side make 79 long balls per Premier League game whilst Allardyce's team make 70.

The number that matters most to both teams though is the points on the table and as it stands Manchester United lead by seven.