Are Man United more dangerous after a shock defeat?

In this article, the analysts from the excellent Form Lab software analyse over performing teams in major European leagues.

Manchester United didn’t just lose against Man City, they were demolished. They suffered their worst home defeat last weekend since the formation of the Premier League, and in the process drifted out to 2/1 second-favourites to be lifting the trophy in May.

A popular theory is that this makes United more dangerous to their opponents in their next game because they are looking to avenge their loss.

But is this true?

We have examined the data across Europe’s Big 5 leagues to find out if there are any trends that might point to an instant return to form for United this weekend against Everton.

The good news:

From 1998/99 to 2010/11 there have been 59 teams in the Big 5 leagues (England, France, Germany, Spain & Italy) who lost by at least five goals at home. If you’d backed each of those sides to respond with a win in their next game you’d have netted a handy 9% profit on turnover (ROI), with the draw also giving you a 12% return.

The bad news:

It’s a different story if the demolished team is playing away in their next game. Backing the 81 teams who have been playing on the road after losing by five or more (either home or away) would have resulted in a 5% loss – though this would have been better than backing the draw or home win.

The cream doesn’t always rise to the top

Up until now we’ve examined the response for all teams regardless of their league position, but what if we just look at the top teams?

A heavy defeat like this doesn’t spell disaster for top teams over the rest of the season. Having lost by at least three goals (either home or away), teams that went on to finish in the top four won 61% of their next 229 matches, and backing them in all of these subsequent games would have given a 20% profit.

If we focus just on the next away game to follow a drubbing, we only get 46 matches, making it hard to draw firm conclusions.

Across Europe, it’s a mixed bag, with a profit made by backing the home team (26% ROI) and the away team (22% ROI).

What does seem consistent is the likelihood of goals. You might think that the demolished team would keep it tight in their next game, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with the next game going over 2.5 goals 59% of the time.

Top-four finishers playing away following a home defeat by at least three goals


  • W = Backing the team playing after a home defeat by at least three goals.
  • L = Backing the opposition.
  • CS = Clean sheet
  • +2.5 = Number of games going over 2.5 goals.

So are United likely to bounce right back?

There is a very small sample size so it’s hard to draw firm conclusions, but there must be a word of warning for United backers

In the seven previous Premier League matches where a top-four finisher has lost by at least three at home, just one has followed up with an away win, and only one has kept a clean sheet. The last time United lost at home by as many as three goals was to Liverpool in 2008/09 when they were coming off an 11 game winning streak – their next match ended in a loss at Fulham with Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney both being sent off.

Add this to the fact that United have won just half their away games this season and have the highest away draw rate in the EPL from the last 20, the best away win odds of 1.83 look a little tight.

Do you like analysis like this? Pick up a Smart Betting Club membership to access football betting strategies and independent reviews of major sports tipsters.