Who will be Manchester United’s Saviour?

‘Crisis’, ‘Club in decline’ and ‘end of an era’ are just a few terms being used to describe the plight currently engulfing Manchester United. On January 23rd 2013, United sat at the top of the Premier League with 56 points. Fast forward exactly one year and they find themselves on a mere 37 points, out of the FA Cup, out of the League Cup and out of the title race. They are also 6 points off 4th place and crucially a place in next season’s Champion’s League.

It is clear that United need new blood injected into the team but the big question is who do they need and what positions do they need to fill? Widespread media reports are suggesting that Chelsea have accepted a bid from United for Juan Mata and a medical is imminent. Mata is just one of a number of players from around the world that are being linked with United at this time. It goes without saying that a lot of the rumours are based on a specific position as opposed to a certain parameter. Added to this, most of the players linked are those who people would like to see grace the pitch at Old Trafford. Taking opinion and emotion out of the equation, we decided to see what the statistics had to offer in terms of what United were lacking this season, as opposed to last, and who are the best performing players in the Premier League this season within those parameters. Now it goes without saying that a club of United’s stature could and will attract good players from all over the world but in order to prevent this post from becoming a thesis, we limited our search to the Premier League. Anyone wanting to find out who the stats recommend from other leagues is welcome to contact us!

With that out of the way, let’s move onto the stats themselves. As we stated above, United have amassed 19 points less than they did at the same stage last season. Where are they going wrong? When comparing their performance last season to their games this season we found that the most noticeable differences was when it came to crosses, chance creation and breaking the second line of defence.

As can be seen, United were in the top 5 of each of these parameters last season. This season, however, it is a very different story.

Now that we have our parameters defined we looked at the players who performed these best in these categories this season thus far. In order to qualify a minimum of 10 games needed to be played. Below you can see the various parameters with the top 5 players in each category as well as the top performing United player. Keeping in mind that United are about to sign Mata we added his stats from last season too. The reason we used last season’s stats for him is that he has not featured regularly for Chelsea this season and thus his performances have been affected.

The first parameter that we looked at was crosses. Wayne Rooney is United’s top performer whereas Mata would not even be in the top ten based on percentages of good crosses and would come in 55th place.

When it concerns chances that were created as a result of a cross, we see that Rooney is again the top United player but here Mata, whilst not ranking in the top 5, would rank above Rooney in 12th place.

As for actual chance creation, unsurprisingly Wayne Rooney has been United’s top performer but is only 14th on the list. Mata, however, would come in 7th position and this is one parameter where United are lacking having dropped significantly in this area.

Now we also looked at the ratio of attempts at creating a chance in relation to chances created and surprisingly Patrice Evra is highest on this list although it is nothing to be proud of with him having a ranking of 51. Mata, whilst not making the top 5, would rank significantly higher than Evra in 39th place but he does have an above average percentage.

Finally we looked at the breaking the second line of defence. The top United player is Michael Carrick, who again falls woefully short of the top 5. Mata actually ranks lower than Carrick and would come in at 23 but this is not his area as he is generally the player that the ball is being passed to when the 2nd line of defence is broken.

Juan Mata will certainly improve United’s team when it comes to chances created from crosses as well as chance creation in general but there are certainly players that are better in these areas that would be available for significantly less than Mata. As for crosses and the breaking the second line of defence, Moyes will need to find an alternate solution for this. As to the players that United need to sign, we’ll leave that for you to decide.

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