Statistics are becoming more important than ever in the world of football and particularly here in the Premier League.
Indeed, the vast majority of English clubs adopted statistical analysis some time ago, applying it to tactics, recruitment strategies, training sessions and virtually every other aspect of the modern game.
At the same time, Sky Sports and BBC Sport turned to data from Sports Interactive, the creators of the hugely successful Football Manager series, when running the rule over rumoured Premier League targets during the summer, whilst the popularity of websites like Whoscored and Squawka, created from interpreting the beautiful game in numerical form, are at an all time high.
With that in mind and seven games of the new Premier League season already gone, Football Fancast have decided to delve through Manchester United’s stats for the 2015/16 campaign in the hope of finding a few anomalous gems.
Fortunately, we did. So here’s FIVE surprising Red Devils statistics you can impress your mates with down the local boozer.
Often accused of lacking a natural role in Manchester United’s starting Xi, Juan Mata has made the right wing his own this season – topping the Red Devils’ charts for both assists and goals in the Premier League:
That makes the Spaniard in some way responsible for half of United’s Premier League goals (12) and for almost one goal per league appearance. Impressive stuff. As you can see below, it’s a significant improvement on his form since moving to Old Trafford in January 2014:
Louis van Gaal didn’t take too kindly to Sam Allardyce dubbing the Red Devils ‘long ball United’ last season after they scraped a draw with West Ham via a series of last-minute pumps into the East London outfit’s penalty box. But the stats don’t lie and United currently average the third-most long passes per match in the Premier League, only trumped by West Ham and Watford:
Does that mean they’re now the Premier League’s resident long-ball merchants? In a nutshell, no – because they’re also the third-most prolific short passers in the division after Arsenal and Manchester City:
Interestingly enough, however, that’s still not enough for them to top the Premier League’s passing table, coming second behind the Gunners:
Perhaps due to their sustained dominance of possession, no Premier League side has picked up less cards than United’s miserly nine this season, averaging out at just 1.3 bookings per game:
That’s despite averaging the ninth-most fouls per match of any time in the division:
Of those nine bookings, three have come from just one man; rugged right-back Matteo Darmian, who always brings shall we say… a typically Italian philosophy to United’s defensive efforts. Only three Premier League players, Jack Colback, Eric Dier, Billy Jones and Alexander Tettey, have more:
Considering the Red Devils are currently sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League table, you might be surprised to discover that they’ve spent the least amount of time in the opposition half of any side to finish in the top four last season:
Indeed, they much prefer to spend their time battling it out in midfield – 48% of it to be precise, which is only bettered by 17th-place Stoke City:
Bizarrely, however, United’s attacks don’t stem from the middle of the pitch. Instead, the left flank has been their predominant source of forward play this season, likely due to Luke Shaw’s copious overlapping runs during the opening weeks of the campaign. They actually boast the biggest left wing bias in the Premier League:
Anthony Martial has already received glowing reviews this season, proving that youngsters won’t necessarily crumble under the weight of enormous price tags, but the statistics show just how impressive he’s truly been.
First and foremost, he’s just one of two United players to score more than one goal in the Premier League this season along with Juan Mata. Whilst that’s required eighteen shots from the Spaniard, however, the 19 year-old has bagged three from just five attempts at goal, giving him a conversion rate of 60%.
But what has surprised many about the young forward is his ability to handle the physicality of the top flight, despite measuring in at just 5 foot 11. Indeed, Martial has averaged the most successful aerial duels of any Manchester United player this term – an impressive 3.3:
That actually ranks him joint 16th throughout the division.