Football Features

Manchester United are the Premier League’s record-breaking Road Warriors

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:41, 31 August 2021 | Updated: 18:14, 10 September 2021

Manchester United set a new Premier League record with their recent win over Wolves, now going 28 games without losing a game away from home.

It’s more bad news for Arsenal who, in addition to losing their first three games of a top-flight season for the first time since 1954, have now lost the record of 27 unbeaten away games that they had held since their “Invincibles” side went 49 league matches without defeat in 2003/04.

But although United have now broken that record, and thus have the greater streak by definition; was it better throughout? Were they more prolific and dominant? Or did they fraud their way to breaking the Gunners’ record? We’ve had a look and compared both streaks in four categories to decide who had the more impressive unbeaten streak.

The winning edge

The first question has to be who won more? Obviously neither side lost any games in their streak, but which team won more games? Any unbeaten run the size of 27 or 28 games is impressive but if half of those games are draws then it becomes less so.

In this instance, there actually is no winning edge. Manchester United have one more win, but that’s because they played one more game. Their record-breaking result was a 0-1 win over Wolves, which means their unbeaten streak contains 18 victories to Arsenal’s 17.

Breaking it down further, United’s points-per-game is 2.28, while Arsenal’s is 2.26. The difference is so miniscule it basically doesn’t exist, but Manchester United have (just about) got the winning edge.

Man Utd 1-0 Arsenal

Comeback Kings

You don’t dominate 27 or 28 away games in a row, you just don’t. Sometimes you’ll struggle, you’ll be held back, stifled or beaten up and dominated – and you’ll definitely fall behind. But if you come away without losing you’ve managed a few comebacks along the way.

So which side did, in fact, manage more comeback wins? Arsenal pulled off three turnarounds during their unbeaten run, but Manchester United managed a whopping nine. The Red Devils recovered more than 25 points from losing positions in 2020/21 alone. Their powers of recovery on the road were so consistent it almost felt like they would concede the first goal on purpose just to wake them up – reflected in the fact that they scored 10 goals in the last 10 minutes of games over that run, while Arsenal managed just 6.

United take it again.

Man Utd 2-0 Arsenal

Goal Difference

One fantastic indicator of overall quality is goal difference, for obvious reasons. Scoring 100 goals isn’t quite so impressive if you also concede 80, and so on. So which of these two teams managed to spread their goal difference out more?

During their 28 matches, Manchester United scored 51 times and conceded 19 for a goal difference of 32. That’s very impressive and reflects the overall health of United’s side. Arsenal, meanwhile, scored 54 goals and conceded 17 in just 27 games. So they played less, yet scored more (while conceding fewer) for a goal difference of 37.

Arsenal claw one back!

Man Utd 2-1 Arsenal

Dominance

Goal difference is one way to show a team’s overall quality, another is in how many dominant, big wins the team racked up. Consistent goalscoring is impressive but laying the smackdown on your opponents is equally so. Being able to thoroughly dominate teams and win by two or three clear goals is one hell of a flex, so who did it more?

Well, United won games by a single goal on seven occasions. They were consistent enough to win games by a couple of goals on an impressive eight different occasions but they lacked the firepower to really open it up, winning by three or more goals just three times.

The Gunners lived up to their nickname and really blew opponents away, however. They had six wins by a solitary goal, four by two goals and an absolutely massive seven wins by three or more away from home. Seven times they rocked up to someone’s back yard and just slapped them around with absurd ease and confidence. Much more impressive than Man Utd’s total.

So that makes it 2-2 in terms of categories.

There’s only one way to break this deadlock.

Titles

Manchester United’s unbeaten run began in February 2020 after they had lost 2-0 away to Liverpool. Bruno Fernandes signed soon after and United’s streak began. In that time they’ve played in an EFL Cup, FA Cup and two Europa League semi-finals as well as a Europa League final. They lost four of the five ties (three of them away from Old Trafford) and despite their excellent progress and historic unbeaten run, they have exactly zero titles to show for it.

Arsenal, meanwhile, played in two Community Shields, two FA Cup semi-finals and an FA Cup final across their unbeaten away run. They won the 2002/03 FA Cup final and 2004/05 Community Shield, but lost the 2003/04 Community Shield and FA Cup semi-final (both to Manchester United). Most importantly and relevantly to their strength away from home in the Premier League, however, is the fact that Arsenal, y’know, won the Premier League.

The Gunners didn’t lose at home for the entire time their unbeaten away run was active as well. They truly were Invincible. Alright they lost in the FA Cup and Champions League, but so did Manchester United and the Red Devils also lost home Premier LeagueΒ matches to Crystal Palace, Spurs (1-6!), Arsenal and Sheffield United during the time they were unbeaten away.

So the record belongs to Manchester United. Twenty-eight Premier League away games unbeaten, and counting! However, Arsenal’s run was basically as impressive and happened during a phenomenal and historic title-winning campaign. The Gunners don’t have much to smile about these days, but hopefully remembering the glory days brings a smile to their faces.

Final score: Man Utd 2-3 Arsenal