Skip to main content

Better than Busby? - The stats behind Van Gaal's United exit

Louis van Gaal has a better win percentage than the legendary Matt Busby, but there was a certain inevitably about his dismissal after two years as Manchester United manager.

The Dutchman brought Champions League football back to Old Trafford in his maiden campaign, but a failure to return to Europe's top table this time around cranked up the pressure.

Van Gaal may have thought FA Cup glory in Saturday's win over Crystal Palace would buy him more time – it proved not to be the case.

The rumbles of discontent have grown in numbers among a United faithful frustrated at what they perceived to be a negative, over-cautious style throughout the season and with Jose Mourinho's shadow looming large throughout the season it was only a matter of time before change was instigated.

Below, we use Opta data to assess Van Gaal's time at United.



Matt Busby is one of the most revered names in the history of Manchester United. In 24 years as manager, the Scot won five First Division titles, the FA Cup twice and the European Cup in 1968. But Van Gaal's class will never be held in the same esteem as the 'Busby Babes' despite the former Bayern Munich boss holding a better league win percentage.

Alex Ferguson – 60.4 per cent
Ernest Mangall – 54.2 per cent
Louis van Gaal – 51.3 per cent
David Moyes – 50 per cent
Matt Busby – 49.40 per cent



One of the criticisms levelled at Van Gaal during his tenure is that his team failed to live up to an attacking mantra at Old Trafford, a feature particularly prevalent during the dominant reign of the legendary Alex Ferguson, whose sides were synonymous with going for the jugular.

In Van Gaal's 103 matches in charge across all competitions, United managed 158 goals at an average of just over 1.5 a game. At the other end, United have been defensively solid and their goal has been breached on 98 occasions during that period.

In the league, United's goal average dips to just 1.46 a game (111 in 76). Comparatively, United averaged more than two goals per match during Ferguson's time in the Premier League.



For all the criticisms levelled at David Moyes' ill-fated tenure at United, Van Gaal has done little to lift the mood at Old Trafford. One of the key problems of his reign has been a failure to put teams to bed, with 19 of 76 Premier League matches resulting in draws and eight of those finishing goalless. United fans have also been left frustrated by a lack of goals on home soil this term with just 27 scored at Old Trafford in the Premier League in 2015-16.



In order to combat three seasons of underachievement since Ferguson's departure, it is unsurprising United could be looking at Mourinho to turn their fortunes around. Despite an acrimonious end to his second spell in charge of Chelsea last December that saw him leave the club in 16th position, one point above the relegation zone, the Portuguese remains the manager with the highest win percentage during the Premier League era. Van Gaal, meanwhile, sits outside the top 10.

Jose Mourinho – 66 per cent
Alex Ferguson – 65.2 per cent
Carlo Ancelotti – 63.2 per cent
Roberto Mancini – 61.7 per cent
Manuel Pellegrini – 61.4 per cent