The stats that show how badly Manchester United are struggling

Dutchman barely improved compared to David Moyes

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With Antonio Valencia's calamitous back pass on Monday night went Manchester United's final hope of a trophy this year and manager Louis van Gaal's desire to win the prize that would mask a mediocre season at Old Trafford.

From misfiring multi-million pound imports to August's League Cup first round defeat to League One opposition, it has been a seemingly wasted year for the Red Devils. What positives, if any, can United take away from this season?

It should firstly be remembered what a disaster last season was for United. At this stage in 2014 they had five fewer points, one less goal and had conceded five more.

The average of 1.68 points they won per game was the club's lowest since the Premier League began - closely followed by this season's current average of 1.89. The 39 goals they conceded was the highest since 43 were allowed in 2001/02.

At least David Moyes' team had the excuse of a Champions League campaign - for the first half of the season - and the expected hangover from Sir Alex Ferguson's departure as manager.

This touches on the excuse that some made for Moyes' doomed term last season and which some still make for Van Gaal: Ferguson knew that his side needed a significant overhaul and timed his exit accordingly.

In some ways this seems ridiculous as United won the league in Ferguson's final season by 11 points and were 12 points clear at this stage in 2013, yet some of the underlying numbers support this claim.

The average number of shots taken by United per match was consistently above 16 for the four seasons from 2006/07 until 2009/10, but had dropped to 13.5 in Ferguson's last year at the helm and has since remained at a similar level under both Moyes and Van Gaal.

United were also abnormally clinical in front of goal in 2012/13, needing an average of just 6.8 shots to score each goal - their lowest since records began in 2001 - compared to an average of 9.0 the following year, which Van Gaal's side has barely improved upon with 8.7 this time around.

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If Van Gaal can be criticised for noting this weakness but not correcting it, he has at least presided over some improvement in defence, where his sides have allowed over one shot fewer per game than last season - 10.5 compared to 11.8 - and are on course to concede seven fewer goals than the 43 they shipped in each of the previous two campaigns.

Even here though there is a caveat: United have allowed their opponents more shots from inside their own six yard box (28) than in any previous Premier League season since this data was first collected in 2001/02 and there are still 10 matches left to play.

Meanwhile shots from outside the box - which consistently made up over half of those faced by United under Ferguson in this period - now make up just 35 per cent, down significantly from the 46 per cent faced during Moyes' brief tenure.

Fewer shots from distance and more from close range implies that only goalkeeper David De Gea's brilliant season has spared his manager from further embarrassment in his uncertain first season at the Old Trafford helm.