Manchester United resume their assault on two very important fronts on Saturday, coming up against West Brom at Old Trafford.
With the shaky form of those above them bringing them back into the race for Champions League qualification, wins both then and Tuesday against Everton would go a long way to finally lifting them into the automatic spots.
The Europa League quarter-final tie with Anderlecht is also on the horizon with what could potentially be the path of least resistance still open to United.
Should they secure, by any means, a spot in Europe’s premier competition, considering their League Cup win last month, Jose Mourinho’s opening campaign at United would have to be considered a relatively successful one.
Despite this, The Special One still doesn’t seem to know his absolute best team. The centre-back pairing is constantly changing, Michael Carrick is the messiah some weeks and nowhere to be seen the next while what exactly is happening with Luke Shaw is anyone’s guess.
Using Squawka’s Comparison Matrix, we’ve compiled a “by the stats XI” from United’s season thus far. A few quick things to note before we start:
- Despite the success of 4-3-3 and persistent recent use of 3-4-2-1, we’ve opted to go for a 4-2-3-1, the formation used most often by Mourinho.
- The player’s stats are gathered from the competition in which he played the most minutes.
- The metrics used were based on each position, i.e. assists, goals, chances created etc for attackers.
Goalkeeper: Sergio Romero
The quality of opposition Romero has faced in the Europa League unquestionably has a part to play in the Argentinian topping David De Gea here but he has been near flawless when called upon by Jose.
The 30-year-old’s rate of 13 saves per goal is genuinely astounding, however, regardless of the standard of those taking the shots.
Right-Back: Antonio Valencia
The selection at right-back is a lot less surprising with Antonio Valencia, arguably the player of the season at Old Trafford, dwindling the numbers of his peers. Mateo Darmian has been the only other player to really get in any run at the spot and has been fairly dreadful when he has.
Left-Back: Daley Blind
With the turbulent campaign Luke Shaw has endured, left-back has seen several interesting selections while in recent weeks, it’s evolved into a wing-back role, primarily operated in by Ashley Young. Imagine reading that sentence to someone last July.
In any case, Daley Blind has been the best of a fairly sorry lot with his ability going forward standing out in particular.
Centre-Backs: Phil Jones And Eric Bailly
Despite the odd spat of recklessness, Eric Bailly has been a revelation at Manchester United since his surprise arrival from Villareal last summer. Injuries and AFCON hampered his progress but looks to be back to his best and has been, far and away, the Reds’ best defender and the stats back it up.
Phil Jones, meanwhile, has done lots of Phil Jones things this year but, it must be said, not quite as many Phil Jones things as usual and that can only be a positive. He’s improved on the ball and were it not for a potentially season-ending injury picked up on international duty, he would have played a significant in the final sprint to the top four.
While this hypothetical pair boast the combined composure of a three-legged donkey on a bad batch of hallucinogens, the stats supposedly never lie. Bailly leads in almost every metric with Jones close behind. Both Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo struggle across the board.
Central Midfield: Ander Herrera And Paul Pogba
It was never really a contest in the middle of the field with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera just embarrassing Marouane Fellaini’s numbers. The languid Belgian actually registered a negative value on his “Defence Score”. Michael Carrick falls down on his defensive stats while his attacking digits flatter to deceive.
We’ve highlighted before just how impressive Herrera’s stats are while the world’s most expensive player has had a far more successful return to Old Trafford than some would have you believe and the two chances he creates a game speak volumes.
Attacking Three: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata And Anthony Martial
A triumvirate of Mkhi-Mata-Martial would likely be how most fans would like to see Jose line out his side and the stats back it up. The addition of the Armenian’s pace and dynamism has been a massive bonus since his emergence from the wilderness while Mata has been as consistent as anyone when he’s gotten his chance and his influence in big games is unquestionable.
For Martial, meanwhile, it’s been an unusual campaign with some brilliant runs of form ended by a bizarre dropping at the hands of the former Inter boss. The tail-end of the season is massive for him with Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappe potentially arriving in the summer.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Much like in midfield or right-back, there was no question who’d lead the line for this team. Zlatan has played every minute of the Premier League games he’s been available and, although Marcus Rashford as has done well when afforded the chance, the Swede’s stats are phenomenal.
If ever there was an argument for how numbers can mislead, it’s his goal tally. Were his conversion rate as good as Jermain Defoe’s, we’d be talking about a season to compete against Cristiano Ronaldo’s final 9 months at the Theatre of Dreams and Paul Pogba would be in the conversation for POTY with a stupid number of assists.
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