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Come May, the only number that mattered was 19. A record breaking Scouse-busting 19. However, in order to climb to the highest perch it’s taken a monumental team effort. To what extent is this represented by individual performance statistics though? Who, according to the numbers has been the stand out performer and who away from home has been a bad luck charm when included?!
If you wish to simply view the statistic tables then scroll down to the bottom of the page rather than reading the analysis of them!
Edwin started 17 games whilst Kuszczak played in the other 2. Between them, only one goal was conceded in the first half of any game – that was in the last home game against Blackpool. Tomasz averaged conceding a goal every 180 minutes which is a better rate than Edwin, who conceded every 139.1 minutes – although with Edwin playing considerably more and Tomasz generally picked in ‘easier’ games this is not really surprising. Ten clean sheets were kept overall – nice of them belonged to Edwin. In the remaining nine games, twelve goals were conceded, none in the opening ten minutes of games and just the one coming in the last ten minutes – scored by Chris Samba in the 7-1 thumping of Blackburn.
How much influence a goalkeeper can directly have on an attack is debatable, but given that Edwin in particular is often included as an 11th outfield player in open play – with players passing the ball back to him and he ably passing it out to someone else, he’s certainly involved. In fact, Edwin even has an assist to his name, it came in the win over Aston Villa this year as his long pass found Rooney who scored. With Edwin on the pitch, a goal was scored every 35 minutes, whereas with Tomasz, a goal was scored every 45 minutes.
As hinted, an important part of Edwin’s game is his ability with the ball at his feet. He completed more passes than Park and Gibson and had a success rate of 66.8%. Considering there are various long punts and goal-kicks amongst his 548 attempted passes, that’s very good. By comparison, Kuszczak had a success rate of only 50%. Despite only playing two games, this is unsurprising. Both goalkeepers averaged around 33 passes a game (Tomasz exactly, Edwin 32.3), however, most of Tomasz’s were long punts, as seen in the Fulham home game, defenders are reluctant to pass the ball back to him and involve him in general play meaning that his passing success rate is likely to be lower than Edwin’s, whose passing regularly includes plenty of short passes. Passing aside, neither goalkeeper was involved in much else, although Edwin did make and win one tackle.
Away from home:
Both goalkeepers found it much tougher away from home this year. Tomasz got one more game than he did at home with three completed appearances, Edwin played and completed 16 games. A total of 25 goals were conceded and only five clean sheets were kept, all by Edwin. All four goals conceded by Kuszczak came in the first half of games and were on average conceded every 67.5 minutes. The majority of Edwin’s goals were conceded in the second half (13 out of 21) with six conceded in the last ten minutes of games – United have dropped plenty of points they shouldn’t have over the course of the season due to late goals. Two were conceded inside the opening ten minutes and overall Edwin conceded a goal every 68.6 minutes. He also picked up the only yellow card given out to a United goalkeeper this season in the league.
Whether it’s a coincidence or not, United scored more goals away from home when Kuszczak was in goal rather than Edwin. With Tomasz, a goal was scored by United once every 38.6 minutes whereas with Edwin in goal, United scored once every 65.5 minutes. On five occasions when Edwin was in goal, United failed to score – Sunderland, Man City, Tottenham, Newcastle and Arsenal.
At home, the passing stats favoured Edwin, however away from home they’re reversed. Despite playing one less game away from home, Edwin actually attempted more passes (624), probably because United have been less dominant away and the game has been played closer to the United goal. Edwin had a pass success rate of 61.9% compared to Kuszczak’s which away from home was 68.8% (53 out of 77). Edwin again attempted and completed one tackle.
A mixed year for goalkeepers. Edwin has retired off the back of being one of the club’s stand-out performers whereas Kuszczak is likely to leave after a string of errors and unconvincing displays. A total of 37 goals were conceded with over double the amount conceded at home, conceded away from home. Tomasz conceded a goal every 90 minutes, Edwin just over every 92 minutes. In just under 40% of games a clean sheet was kept, with Edwin keeping 14 clean sheets in total. Whoever comes in to replace Edwin will have high standards to match up to at home and arguably will be under some pressure to help improve reduce of goals conceded away from home.
One of the most impressive stats regarding our defence is for me their discipline. Only two yellow cards were picked up at home (O’Shea and Evra), whilst the red card Jonny Evans received was the other blotch on a good campaign at home for the Red defenders. No defender was on the pitch for all 12 of the goals conceded but both Evra and Vidic were for 11 of them. Incredibly, every single defender kept a clean sheet in at least 50% of their games played – Fabio tops the list with 80% but only played 5 home games or 282 minutes. Of the players that played rather more at home, Evans, Rafael and Evra are next best (Smalling was just better than them but only played 423 minutes compared to Evans’s 670, Rafael’s 652 and Evra’s 1515 minutes). Surprisingly, the worst clean sheet to games ratio was Ferdinand’s who came in bang on at 50%.
Much like the clean sheet to games ratio, the minutes per goals figures have similar results. Fabio again tops the list with a goal conceded every 282 minutes whilst next up and the best of the rest is O’Shea with a goal conceded every 161.2 minutes. The worst record belong to Evans (worst is harsh as it’s still a very good figure), he conceded every 111.67 minutes. Only Evra and Vidic played more than 1000 minutes and they were also the only two played to have conceded more than 10 goals. Chris Smalling is certainly worthy of praise, a fantastic first season is reflected by his stats – a goal conceded every 141 minutes. Despite having the worst clean sheets to games ratio, Rio Ferdinand’s class does shine through, he conceded a goal every 150 minutes in his 900 minutes played (Vidic conceded every 136.18 minutes).
Arguably, contributions from the defence to the attacking play could have been better this year. At home, United’s fullbacks are able to get high up the pitch, getting crosses in and even scoring; whilst with the number of corners and free kicks we get, opportunities for strong centre backs to score headers are plenty even if the delivery is often poor. Four goals were scored by defenders – three by Vidic and a rare goal from Evra. Assists are also numbered four – three by O’Shea and one by Rafael. I found it surprising to see that Evra hadn’t directly created a goal, maybe a sign that his season had been a bit below-par?
When Smalling played, a goal was scored every 23.5 minutes, the fastest rate of the defenders. The slowest was when Evans lined up, a goal every 55.8 minutes. Evra played the most minutes of the defenders at home – when he played, a goal was scored every 33.67 minutes, a great marker for how free-scoring United have been this season in front of their own fans.
An important part of being a Man United defender is the ability to be comfortable with the ball at your feet. This is reflected in the pass completion stats. No defender was as low as 77% whilst Rio, Vidic and Evra were all in the mid 80%s. The defenders averaged attempting 42 passes a game, a high amount for a team who play generally in the opposition half when at home. Only Rafael, O’Shea, Evra and Vidic registered a shot on target with Vidic getting over 50% of his efforts on target. Evans and Smalling were the other defenders to have efforts on goal but theirs failed to test the goalkeeper. Evra had the most shots from the defence with 8.
Rafael, Vidic and Evra were the only defenders to make more than 50 tackles with only the latter two winning more than 50. Ferdinand won 79% of the tackles he made, the highest amount (Vidic won 69%). Rafael was the only other player to get above 70%. O’Shea won the fewest amount of tackles he made – 56%. Rafael was also the most regular tackler, making more than 7 a game. Ferdinand is often praised for how well he reads the game and therefore doesn’t have to commit to too many challenges – this is reflected in that he attempted the fewest number of tackles per game (4.3). However, O’Shea went the longest period of time between tackles, with one made every 35 minutes (Smalling was the most regular tackler with one every 9.5 minutes).
Vidic leads the way with blocks, interceptions and clearances – he made 135 clearances, at least more than double any other defender. His 11 blocks show his commitment and importance to the side, this was also more than double the number any other defender made.
Away from home:
At home, United’s discipline was excellent, however away from home United appeared to be more aggressive. An average of one yellow card per game was picked up by the defence with Rafael collecting four and Vidic leading the way with eight. Those two also received red cards, both second yellow cards – Rafael at Spurs and Vidic at Chelsea. A total of 25 goals were conceded and only Vidic and Evra conceded double figures – Vidic played 18 games and conceded 22, Evra 17 and also conceded 22 goals. No other defender made ten or more appearances away from home. Clean sheets were much harder to come by – only O’Shea and Vidic played in all five of the clean sheet games; Evra and Smalling played in four of them. Jonny Evans was the only defender not to keep a clean sheet. Smalling and O’Shea were the only defenders to keep a clean sheet in 50% or more games.
With United conceding more than one goal per game, the minutes per goals figures for the players are worse than the home stats. Rio Ferdinand was the only defender to not concede once a game – he averaged conceding every 115.7 minutes. Wes Brown had the worst goals per minute record, conceding every 44.3 minutes but he did only play in four games overall (266 minutes). Vidic played the most games and minutes, conceding every 73.6 minutes – a good representative of the team away from home overall. Fabio was the only defender to never concede in the opening ten minutes of the game or the last ten minutes. Gary Neville played the fewest minutes of any defender, completing just over two games worth (206 minutes).
Contributions from the defenders on the score sheet were rather limited away from home. Vidic with two goals and Fabio with one goal away at Wigan were the only scorers – all three goals coming in the second half of games. There were five games where United failed to score and Vidic was the only player to appear in all of them. Meanwhile, Gary Neville and Jonny Evans were the only defenders to not play in games when United didn’t score. When Ferdinand and Rafael played away from home, United averaged scoring a goal every 100 minutes or longer – all the other defenders have an average less than 90 minutes with Evans the lowest (a goal scored every 37.2 minutes).
Every defender except Gary Neville experienced more goals scored in the second half of games, than in the first half – Fabio and Brown were never on the pitch when a first half goal was scored. Vidic was on the pitch for the most goals (28), with one scored every 57.85 minutes.
As expected, the passing completion percentages are generally lower away from home than at home, but even so, no defender fell below 75%. Leading the way was Gary Neville with 82.1% but he only played in three games. The next best were Smalling with 82% and Ferdinand with 80.2%. Interestingly, the defenders were playing more passes per game away from home than at home. At home it was 42 passes a game, away from home it’s 46 attempted. It just goes to emphasise how important ball control, passing and vision are as attributes for a Man United defender. Jonny Evans attempted the most passes per game – 62, that’s nine more than any other defender.
Oddly, more shots were attempted by defenders away from home than at home, with only Gary Neville failing to have an attempt on goal. Rafael, Evans, Smalling, Fabio Evra and Vidic registered a shot on target with Fabio, Evans and Rafael getting over 50% of their efforts on target. Rio, O’Shea and Brown all failed to get any of their shots on target. With 11 shots, Vidic had the most of any of the defenders.
O’Shea, Vidic and Evra were the only defenders to make more than 50 tackles with Vidic winning more than 50. Gary Neville won 80% of the tackles he made, the highest amount (Vidic won 73.6%). Vidic and Neville were joined by O’Shea and Smalling as being the four players to win at least 70% of their tackles made. Evans won the fewest amount of tackles he made, a lowly 39%. Evans was the most regular tackler, making more than 8 a game. Ferdinand made the fewest a game at home and likewise made the fewest away from home with 4.5 per game – Gary Neville actually made fewer but played considerably less. Ferdinand also went the longest period of time between tackles, with one made every 19.5 minutes (Fabio was the most regular tackler with one every 9.8 minutes).
Vidic again leads the way with blocks, interceptions and clearances – he made 202 clearances, nearly treble the number made by any other defender. His 18 blocks was treble the number anyone else made. He made 47 interceptions which emphasises how good a reader of the game he is, maybe something he doesn’t get enough credit for.
At home it was a good season for the defence as Old Trafford became a fortress. However, away from home, late goals were conceded on too many occasions – conceding better than a goal a game is certainly something that United can do better at. Arguably the defenders should have scored more goals too, but it’s fair that they could blame poor deliveries from set pieces on this. Nemanja Vidic was the stand out performer and has indeed collected various individual awards for his form this season. Chris Smalling had an excellent debut season whilst both Da Silva twins had spells of impressive form. Gary Neville made only three appearances, all away from home, and he has now retired. There is clearly no need for first choice reinforcements in the defence but with Neville’s retirement and Brown linked with a move away from the club there may well be one versatile defender brought in.
United’s midfield is the largest part of the squad – 12 midfielders appeared at home including two who only made one league appearance at Old Trafford, Owen Hargreaves (played 10 minutes) and Bebe (played 64 minutes). Rotation has always been an important part of how United keep players fresh as well as providing opportunities to all members of the squad. This is reflected in the fact that only four of the midfield played over 800 of the 1710 minutes of Premier League football at home this season (Anderson played 799!). Nani played and started the most; never used as a sub, he started 16 of the games, carrying the burden of injuries to Valencia, Park and Giggs at various stages of the season, and racking up 1389 minutes of football.
Being the most combative area of the pitch, it’s no surprise to see that the midfielders picked up 9 yellow cards – more than the goalkeepers, defenders and forwards combined. Fletcher and Giggs both picked up two bookings whilst Scholes was unsurprisingly the worst offender with three bookings in ten appearances. Nani was the only midfielder on the pitch for ten or more goals conceded whilst he and Giggs both were involved in 9 clean sheets. However, Carrick was the only midfielder to play in all ten of the home clean sheets in the league, joining Evra and one forward in doing so. Excluding Bebe and Hargreaves, every defender kept a clean sheet in at least half of the games they played. Valencia had the best record with a clean sheet in 80% of his games whilst Carrick and Gibson lead the rest of the pack with a clean sheet in 71.4% of the games they featured in.
There are similarities between clean sheets kept and the minutes per goal ratio figures. Valencia again tops the list with a goal conceded every 433 minutes, however his injury meant he only featured in five games with a total of 433 minutes. Unsurprisingly (or surprisingly to some), Carrick has the best ratio of the rest with a goal conceded every 166.2 minutes or just shy of every two games. Giggs wasn’t far off at a goal every 152 minutes. Excluding Bebe, Hargreaves and Obertan (the latter featured in four games but only a total of 201 minutes), the worst record belongs to Anderson who conceded every 114.1 minutes. Putting that into context though, that’s still a very fine record – better than every game. Somewhat surprisingly, of the wingers, Park had the worst minutes per goal conceded figure (137.8). Park is often considered a defensive winger although his selection predominantly in the big games at home may be the reason he props up the wingers in this category.
Whilst some midfields are set out to be functional, and some players, like Carrick, will generally play deep, over the course of the season one would expect a contribution (a goal or an assist) from pretty much every midfielder who regularly plays. Six midfielders failed to score and five failed to lay on an assist. From the frequently selected players, Gibson and Carrick fall into both categories whilst Scholes provided two assists but no goals. Nani, Park and Giggs offered the best contributions, with Nani leading the way with 7 goals and 11 assists in 16 games. It means Nani directly influenced a United goal at home every 77.2 minutes. It’s an outstanding contribution given how much football he played and shows how well he did to keep his consistency levels up. However, one player does better it; Park influenced a goal every 68.9 minutes with 3 assists and 5 goals in his 7 appearances (551 minutes). It’s worth also pointing out that goals in the last ten minutes of games were scored by Nani, Park and Giggs – always a crucial time to score.
Direct influences aside, goals were scored most frequently when Anderson was on the pitch – one every 29.6 minutes. The slowest rate of goals scored (again excluding Bebe and Obertan) belonged to both Darron Gibson and Antonio Valencia, with a goal scored every 48.1 minutes when either of them were playing. Unsurprisingly 61% of the goals were created by a midfielder (27 out of 44 assists) with 20 of them coming from wingers.
A United midfielder is likely to see a lot of the ball and therefore has to be able and accurate when in possession. It’s understandable and expected that central players will be more accurate that wingers and corner takers – this is very much reflected in the passing stats for the midfielders. With the exception of Hargreaves and Bebe almost all the midfielders had a passing success rate of 75%. The anomalies were the two main corner takes – Nani (69.5%) and Giggs (68%). The most accurate passer not just in the midfield but in the entire squad at home was the recently retired Scholes with a deadly rate of 89.1%. Gibson, Fletcher, Park and Carrick were all accurate to the tune of at least 80% with Carrick the best of the rest at 87.3%. Fletcher attempted the most passes per game (65.5) with Nani attempting the most overall (815).
With the exception of Hargreaves, every midfielder had not only a shot on goal but a shot on target, including both Bebe and Obertan. With 82 shots on goal, Nani had the most attempts out of any midfielder and player in the squad. He also had the most shots off target (35) and the most shots blocked (21). Nani was the top scorer though amongst the midfield with 7 goals scored. Park wasn’t far off with 5. Park, Bebe and Fletcher all had 50% of their shots on target whilst the least accurate player was Scholes with 10% of his shots hitting the target.
Incredibly, Nani attempted more tackles than any other player in the squad let alone the midfield. Giggs and Anderson also attempted more than 50 tackles but only Nani won more than 50. The most successful tackler in the midfield (and the team) was Darron Gibson, winning 83.3% of his tackles. Bebe, Obertan, Nani and Valencia all won under half of the tackles they attempted. Surprisingly, Scholes was the second best tackling midfielder, winning 72.2% of his tackles – not bad for a ‘dirty’ player. Nani and Valencia were the most regular tacklers attempting over 9 and 8 tackles per game respectively. Despite being the cleanest tackler, Gibson was also the most infrequent, making less than two tackles a game. Gibson in turn attempted a tackle every 32.1 minutes played (Fletcher was every 34.6 minutes). By comparison, Nani attempted one every 9.6 minutes. All four main wingers attempted a tackle less than every 13 and a half minutes.
One midfielder stands out as the leading the way with blocks, interceptions and clearances – Michael Carrick. He made 31 interceptions, 3 blocks and 12 clearances. Anderson and Park were the only other two players to make over 20 interceptions whilst Giggs, Anderson and Scholes were the only other midfielders to make any interceptions. No other midfielder made more than 8 clearances. In a season when Darren Fletcher has been injured and sometimes a bit below par; and without a natural defensive midfielder, Michael Carrick’s defensive contribution should not be overlooked.
Away from home:
Away from home, 11 midfielders were used. Owen Hargreaves didn’t play and Bebe only played 10 minutes in one game. Obertan started one game and was used as a sub twice – he only played 80 minutes in total. As well as Bebe and Obertan, Valencia and Gibson were the only two midfielders to play less than 7 games and 400 minutes. Nani, Carrick, Fletcher and Scholes played more than 800 minutes with Carrick and Nani playing and starting over 1000 minutes. Every single midfielder was at some point used as a substitute whilst only Bebe failed to start a game. Nani played and started the most games, featuring in 17 out of the 19 and starting 15 of them – yet another reflection of how important he was to the side this past year. No midfielder played more than the 2666 minutes of football that Nani completed overall (home and away) this season.
United’s midfield were sometimes accused of not getting ‘stuck-in’ enough in games. This is somewhat reflected in the fact that only 14 yellow cards were picked up. That is commendable but are United maybe too soft? Scholes picked up five bookings and only Bebe and Obertan didn’t get booked. Five midfielders conceded more than ten goals whilst Anderson only conceded one goal – keeping six clean sheets (NB coming on as a sub when the side have already scored but not conceding when on the pitch has been classed as an individual clean sheet). Every single midfielder kept at least one clean sheet with Nani, Scholes, Fletcher and Anderson keeping at least five. Only Anderson and Bebe kept a clean sheet in more than half the games they played. Park had the worst clean sheet to games record, only keeping a clean sheet in 14.3% of the games he played away from home.
There are similarities between clean sheets kept and the minutes per goal ratio figures. With just one goal conceded in his 7 away appearances, Anderson only conceded once every 407 minutes. Nani had the next best record, conceding a goal once every 67.2 minutes. Most midfielders conceded roughly once an hour apart from Park and Gibson – every 49.2 minutes and 53.6 minutes respectively. It is once again surprising to see, like at home, that Park conceded most frequently. Selection in big games predominantly is one good possible explanation for this result. Six goals were conceded in the last 10 minutes of games and Fletcher was the only midfielder on the pitch for them all. Two goals were conceded in the opening ten minutes of games (Bolton and Wolves); Nani, Giggs and Fletcher were on the pitch for both of those.
If the midfield contribution to goals scored was disappointing at home, away from home it was abysmal. Only 4 of the 29 goals scored were by midfielders – 13.8%. By comparison, the year before, 38% of away league goals had come from the midfield. Nani scored two whilst Fletcher and Scholes both got goals early on in the season at Everton and Fulham respectively. This means that from the 26th September until the end of the season, Nani was the only midfielder to score away from home and it saw the club go through two four month spells where no midfielder at all scored. There were better contributions in terms of assists though. Only five midfielders failed to lay on an assist and that includes Bebe and Obertan. Meanwhile, Nani created 7 goals, with Fletcher creating 4 and Giggs creating 3. It means that 64% of assists were laid on by midfielders. By some distance, Nani made the biggest direct contribution to any goals scored, influencing 9 goals – or scoring/assisting once every 141.9 minutes. Fletcher was next best, offering a contribution directly to a goal every 239 minutes or every two and a half games! No midfielder scored in the closing ten minutes of a game but there was one own goal scored then. Nani scored away at Wolves inside the opening ten minutes though.
Direct influences aside, goals were scored most frequently when Gibson was on the pitch – one every 33.5 minutes. Although, Gibson only played 268 minutes overall – the next best rate of goals scored was when Giggs played, with a goal scored every 47.8 minutes. The slowest rate of goals was when Park played – one every 110.8 minutes. Park and Anderson were the only players who averaged worse than one goal scored a game.
As at home, United’s midfielders passing stats are very good and follow a similar pattern. With the exception of Obertan and Bebe almost all the midfielders had a passing success rate of 72%. The anomalies were the two main corner takes – Nani (67.1%) and Giggs (69.5%). The most accurate passer not just in the midfield but in the entire squad away from home (excluding players who rarely featured) was the recently retired Scholes with a rate of 89.9%. Gibson, Fletcher and Carrick were all accurate at a rate of at least 80% with Carrick the best of the rest at 84.8%. Carrick attempted the most passes per game (59.7) and also he attempted the most overall (836).
With the exception of Bebe, every midfielder had a shot on goal. Only Valencia failed to register a shot on target. With 53 shots on goal, Nani had the most attempts out of any midfielder and player in the squad. He also had the most shots off target (27) and the most shots blocked (14). Only Anderson hit 50% of his shots on target with many of the players struggling to get over 35%. Carrick had the worst shooting accuracy with only 7.1% of his efforts testing the opposition goalkeeper.
Like at home, Nani attempted more tackles (120) than any other midfielder – well over double the next most (Fletcher, 52). Nani was therefore the only player who won more than 50 tackles, a surprising statistic given that he can be perceived to play for himself rather than the team. The most successful tackler in the midfield was Obertan, winning 87.5% of his tackles, but he only attempted 8 altogether. The next best tackler was Anderson who won 66.7% of his tackles made. It’s very encouraging that all bar two midfielders won over half of the tackles they attempted, those two were Nani and Park. Nani was the most regular tackler attempting over 7 tackles per game. In fact the four most regular tacklers amongst the midfielders were all wingers. Gibson was the most infrequent tackler, attempting one every 53.6 minutes. Obertan was the most regular tackler per minute played, attempting one every 10 minutes, whilst Nani attempted one every 10.6 minutes. All four main wingers attempted a tackle less than every 17 minutes.
Scholes is credited for being someone who reads the game so well, but he didn’t make the most interceptions. Michael Carrick maybe doesn’t get the praise he should for that part of his game – he made 31 interceptions, 7 more than Scholes – who was the only other player to make more than 20. Fletcher made the most blocks – 8 in total, emphasising how much he was missed in the defeat away to Arsenal. Carrick made the second most blocks – 5. Fletcher also made the most clearances (21), with Nani making the second most (20) and Carrick third (19). Every midfielder bar Bebe made at least one interception and clearance.
It’s been a tough season for the midfield with criticism aimed at them from all angles. The lack of goals both home and away is a concern but arguably United’s midfield has changed. It’s definitely more functional with the central players winning the ball and looking to shift it out wide to the wide players as soon as possible. Injuries to Valencia, Park and Giggs meant a huge burden was on Nani’s shoulders and he responded by become an important player who scored and created goals. Nani was arguably the stand-out performer and his commitment in making the most tackles is a very pleasant surprise even if his rate of winning them wasn’t great. Michael Carrick went somewhat under the radar when it comes to praise but his passing accuracy and tackling accuracy, as well as interceptions and blocks show how well he did in the absence of any natural defensive midfielder. Scholes has retired off the back of the club’s most accurate passer – he’s had an amazing career and will be sorely missed. Arguably a central player or two will be needed whilst it seems one more winger will be joining. Bebe looks like leaving to go on loan whilst Gibson is strongly linked with a move to Sunderland or Bolton.
United have been heavily reliant on strikers going through periods of form this past season. Chicharito, Rooney and Berbatov have been the main men with Owen used sparingly and Macheda bagging a few appearances before going on loan in January. All five strikers were used as a substitute at some point at home whilst Owen was the only one of them not to start a game. Rooney made the most appearances, 15, one more than Berbatov whilst Chicharito played in ten games. Rooney played 1112 minutes overall, nearly double the minutes Chicharito played, 631. Owen only played 134 minutes of league football at Old Trafford, averaging only 22 minutes per appearance.
Five yellow cards were picked up by the strikers with Rooney collecting two and Owen, Berbatov and Chicharito all getting one each. No striker was on the pitch to concede more than 9 goals (Berbatov). Both Owen and Macheda didn’t concede a single goal meaning they kept 10 clean sheets between them. Rooney joins Evra and Carrick as being the third member of the squad to play in all ten clean sheet games – Berbatov kept eight and Chicharito kept six. Rooney kept a clean sheet in 66.7% of the games he played whilst Berbatov had the worst record of the strikers with a clean sheet in 57.1% of games. Berbatov was the only striker to be on the pitch when a first half goal was conceded.
The clean sheet percentages are directly reflected in the minutes per goal ratio figures. Rooney conceded a goal better than every two games – every 185.3 minutes. Chicharito conceded every 126.2 minutes and the worst rate of the forwards was Berbatov who conceded a goal every 121.8 minutes. Of course who much a striker can influence goals conceded is debatable. Someone like Rooney likes to drop deep and help the midfield out so arguably his record is a reflection of the amount of defensive work he puts in.
The main function of a forward is to score goals. They are of course reliant to some extent on midfielders, defenders and fellow forwards to provide the chances to convert. One forward stood out at home – Berbatov. He scored 17 goals, contributing to 43.6% of the goals scored when he was on the pitch. Chicharito scored 5 goals, 38.5% of the goals when he played; and Rooney scored 4 goals, only 12.1% of the goals when he played. Berbatov also got various key goals. He scored three in the opening ten minutes of games and two in the last ten minutes. However, 60% of Chicharito’s goals were scored in that crucial period in games – two in the opening ten minutes and one in the closing ten. Macheda failed to score in his 107 minutes whilst Owen got one goal.
Berbatov was so prolific at home, scoring one goal every 64.5 minutes. Chicharito in his debut season scored every 126.2 minutes; Rooney could only manage a goal every 278 minutes. Whilst Rooney wasn’t scoring, he was laying on assists (8); Berbatov set up two goals and Chicharito one. This means Berbatov directly influenced 19 of the 49 goals scored at home; Rooney 12 and Chicharito 6. The strikers therefore played their part by scoring or assisting 75.5% of the goals scored at home. By combining goals scored and assists, Berbatov influenced a goal every 57.7 minutes and Rooney every 92.7 minutes.
Direct influences aside, goals were scored most frequently when Berbatov was on the pitch – one every 28.1 minutes. The slowest rate of goals scored was surprisingly when Chicharito played , with one every 48.5 minutes. Overall, 55% of the goals scored at home came from the strikers. Berbatov was the only striker who can boast that a goal was scored every time he played. Despite United scoring a goal in every game, all the other strikers had appearances when they were either brought on as a sub or taken off early when a goal wasn’t scored
Link-up play is very important for a striker, particularly one like Berbatov who’ll drop deep. It’s therefore pleasing to see that all five strikers had a passing accuracy of at least 75%. Berbatov topped the strikers with an accuracy of 80.8%. Chicharito’s accuracy was 77% whilst Rooney was the least accurate of the strikers with 75.6%. No forward was able to complete over 500 passes, not surprising given their apparent lack of involvement in games – Chicharito averaged attempting only 17.8 passes per game with Owen and Macheda attempting only 10. Rooney attempted the most, 43.7 with Berbatov attempting 32.7.
Macheda was the only striker not to have a single shot on goal in any of his appearances. Berbatov had 73 shots on goal, more than any other striker. He also had more shots on target (38) and off target (22) than the other strikers. Berbatov as already mentioned was the top scoring player in the squad with 17 goals. Chicharito got lots of praise for accurate shooting but Berbatov had the most accurate at home with 52.1% of his shots hitting the target. The remaining strikers had 43.5% (Chicharito), 36% (Rooney) and 33.3% (Owen) of their shots on target.
Rooney is credited with being a good team player and this is reflected by the number of tackles he attempted – 72. It’s the fourth highest total in the entire squad. Berbatov made the 6th highest number of tackles with 68. In terms of successful tackles though Rooney is low down the list in the squad, winning only 34.7% of his tackles. Even worse was Chicharito though, winning only 20% of his tackles (5). Berbatov, Owen and Macheda all won at least 50% of their tackles. Rooney attempted 4.8 tackles per game with Berbatov just edging him with 4.9. Chicharito tended to play on the last man and therefore wasn’t as involved as other strikers; this is represented by the fact he made 2.5 tackles per game. Rooney was the most regular tackler per minutes played though, making one every 15.4 minutes. The slowest, as already mentioned was Chicharito, making a tackle every 25.2 minutes.
Being on the fringes of the bid to win back possession, none of the strikers made a huge amount of interceptions, blocks or clearances. Berbatov made the most interceptions (6) and clearances (7); whilst both he and Rooney made one block. There’s little doubt that at home, Berbatov was the key man out of the strikers. Since the season has ended, one of Berbatov’s home goals has been changed by the Dubious Goals Committee and is now an own goal – the stats were all compiled before this decision and the change has not been made.
Away from home:
Away from home United used the same five strikers who appeared at home. Berbatov played in all but one of the away games; Chicharito played in 16 but only started half of them; Rooney played and started in 13 games; Owen and Macheda played in 8 games between them but only racked up just over 200 minutes. All five strikers started at least one game and only Rooney was never used as a substitute. Berbatov played 1115 minutes, just one minute more than Rooney. Owen averaged only 22 minutes per appearance at home but away from home he played only 18.8 minutes on average per appearance.
There were six yellow cards dished out to strikers – four to Chicharito and two to Rooney. Only Rooney (16) and Berbatov (19) conceded more than ten goals. All of the strikers conceded at least once with Chicharito somehow impressively only conceding seven in his 16 appearances. Chicharito kept the most away clean sheets in the league – 10 – this was by virtue of coming on as a substitute in games where no further goals were conceded. Rooney only managed to keep three clean sheets whilst Berbatov kept double that amount. Impressively it means that Chicharito kept a clean sheet in 62.5% of his away appearances whilst Rooney only managed to in 23.1% of his. Owen had the best record, keeping a clean sheet in 80% of his games but he only featured in five games or for 94 minutes. Neither Owen nor Macheda conceded a first half goal.
The clean sheet percentages aren’t quite reflected in the minutes per goal ratio figures. Looking only at Rooney, Berbatov and Chicharito, the latter has the best record, conceding a goal every 122.6 minutes away from home. However Berbatov rather than Rooney had the worst record, he conceded every 58.7 minutes whereas Rooney conceded every 69.9 minutes. One theory may be that Chicharito was only used in the ‘easier’ games for the majority of the season thereby reducing the chances of goals being conceded when he was on the pitch. By comparison, Berbatov and Rooney for the most-part were always selected to start away from home where experience, concentration and know-how can count for a lot.
Away from home United managed to score 29 goals, not a particularly large amount. None of the strikers managed to get into double figures, the top scorer was the new boy, Chicharito with 8 goals. Top scorer at home, Berbatov, could only manage four goals despite playing more than any other striker. Rooney scored one less than Chicharito with seven goals. Chicharito scored 50% of all the goals when he was on the pitch, Rooney scored 43.8% of goals scored when he was playing but Berbatov only scored 18.2% of the goals when he played. Rooney was the only striker to score a goal in the first ten minutes of a game. Chicharito scored three goals in the last ten minutes of games and Berbatov, Macheda and Rooney all got one in that time period. The team scored 72.4% of their goals in the second half when away from home – this is reflected by the strikers who scored 76.2% of their goals in the second half of games.
No striker scored a goal a game away from home. Owen came closest, scoring a goal every 94 minutes, although he only scored the one goal. Looking at the three main strikers, Chicharito was the most prolific, scoring a goal every 107.3 minutes. Having scored one goal almost hourly at home, Berbatov scored a goal only every 278.8 minutes away from home – the slowest rate of any striker either home or away. Like Chicharito, Rooney was also more prolific away from home, scoring a goal every 159.1 minutes. Once again Rooney set up more goals than any other striker (3), Berbatov set up 2 with Chicharito assisting just one. It means that Chicharito influenced a goal every 95.3 minutes whilst Rooney influenced a goal every 111.4 minutes.
Direct influences aside, goals were scored most frequently when Macheda was on the pitch – one every 36.7 minutes. However when looking at only the three main strikers, a goal was scored every 50.7 minutes when Berbatov played. The slowest rate of goals scored was when Rooney played, with one every 69.9 minutes. Overall, 72.4% of the goals scored away from home came from the strikers. Either other areas of the team didn’t contribute like they should have done or the strikers were particularly lethal. I think it’s more likely that the team didn’t score enough overall and other areas of the team failed to contribute. All of the strikers played in at least one game when United failed to score. Chicharito was the only player to play in all five of those games.
Once again, United’s strikers were accurate in possession away from home. Macheda was successful in 92.7% of his passes but only attempted 41 overall. Chicharito was more successful than both Rooney and Berbatov, successfully completing 88.2% of his passes compared to their 72.9% and 75.7% respectively. Owen was the least accurate striker, only completing 69.7% of his 33 attempted passes. Only Rooney attempted more than 500 passes and only he completed over 350. Rooney attempted the most passes per game – 45.7 whilst Owen only attempted 6.6.
All five strikers scored at least one goal and therefore they all had a shot on target. Rooney had more shots than any other striker with 47. He had the most efforts on target (20), the most off target (17) and the most blocked (10). Both Macheda and Owen had 100% of their shots on target; both had only one effort on goal which was scored – Owen away at Bolton and Macheda away at Aston Villa. Of the other three strikers, Chicharito was the most accurate, with 46.7% of his shots troubling the opposition goalkeeper or going in the goal; Berbatov was the least accurate with 39.4%.
Surprisingly it’s Berbatov who attempted more tackles than any other striker – 90. In the entire squad, only Nani and Vidic attempted more than him. Quite impressively, Berbatov won 50% of all his tackles, as did Owen. Rooney won more away from home than at home, winning 41.8% compared to 34.7%. Chicharito too improved away from home, winning 38.1%. Rooney attempted 6.1 tackles per game, more than the other strikers. Berbatov attempted on average 5 tackles per game. As at home, Chicharito attempted considerably less (2.6) as he tended to hold positions away from the main action of the game. Berbatov was also the most regular tackler, he attempted one every 12.4 minutes showing how hard he worked (and had to work) to close down opposition defenders.
Again it’s maybe surprising to learn that Berbatov was the most prolific striker in helping out with the defensive side of the game. He made the most interceptions (10), blocks (2) and clearances (15). This is potentially due to the fact that Berbatov naturally likes to come deeper to get on the ball. Even so, for someone who is often perceived to be ‘lazy’ it is somewhat surprising.
It was a successful season for the strikers as they scored 61.5% of the team’s league goals. Each striker went through spells of goal scoring form, first Berbatov then Chicharito. Rooney contributed with goals mainly in the second half of the season but regularly laid on assists. Macheda and Owen also played their part scoring a couple of key away goals. Berbatov scored 21 goals overall with an impressive 17 at home in what was his best season for the club. He did later have a home goal removed and credited as an own goal though. All of the strikers provide a different option because of their varying styles of play. Going into next season, question marks still remain over Berbatov’s future especially seeing as Michael Owen has signed on for another year and Danny Welbeck will return from his loan. Mame Diouf will also be back at the club but it’s unclear whether he’ll stay. Kiko Macheda went out on loan in January to Sampdoria who got relegated. His loan started well but when the club changed their manager he saw his game time significantly reduced and rarely featured in the final couple of months of the season. Whilst Berbatov was the top scorer and for the first half of the season was the key striker; Chicharito was arguably the star in his debut season. He started less than the other main strikers but made a big impact scoring some crucial goals.
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Appearance stats compiled using data from the BBC; all other stats compiled using data from the Guardian.
Stats compiled before Berbatov had a home goal removed and changed to an own goal. One home and one away own goal were also scored during the season.