Manchester United are preparing for the Newcastle clash on Sunday afternoon in their 27th match of the Premier League season. However, only two players this season have featured in all of the previous 26 matches. David De Gea and Nemanja Matic were part of every Man United game in the league, showing how important they are to Jose Mourinho’s team.
We will be diving into numbers and reasons why the two of them are so important for this side.
David De Gea – Keeping The Goal Safe
Spanish goalkeeper had some amazing matches this season, generating the headlines with his incredible saves. Against Arsenal last autumn he had astounding 14 saves across 90 minutes, equalizing the Premier League record. Yet, that was only one of the matches where he shined, saving United from tough situations. Against weaker sides he usually had work to do even when the team comfortably won.
Since the start of the season, only three goalkeepers made more saves than De Gea. That tells one good and bad thing. It shows us that De Gea has been immense and very reliable for his team-mates. He made 83 saves in 26 matches, an incredible 3.2 at a team that sits in second place.
That’s where we got to a bad part. Manchester United are not as firm at the back as the numbers suggest. With 18 goals conceded, United are the best in the league, with Man City conceded two goals more. Yet, the expected goals against suggest United were lucky on many occasions. Their xGA is 31.07 which means the Devils have conceded 13 goals less than it was expected based on the quality of oppositions’ chances.
Also, United concede 11.8 shots per match. While many of them were coming from poorer positions, it is also showing us that the team’s defending is not that good. Teams like Huddersfield and Watford conceded less shots, while Man City concede just 6.4 shots per match. Imagine how many goals would United concede if they managed to achieve these numbers…
Nemanja Matic: The Shield Manchester United Needed
On the other hand, Nemanja Matic looks like the puzzle that was missing in United last season. It is not only him that improved the squad with his arrival. Romelu Lukaku made the team better regarding scoring goals, while Alexis Sanchez is set to make his stamp on the team in the coming months.
Yet, it is Matic’s arrival that made others around him better as well. Paul Pogba usually gets more space when Matic is on the pitch too, while the Serbian’s positioning is making those behind him feel more secure. Matic’s numbers are tougher to crack, as interceptions, tackles and clearances are far from all he does. His positioning is not something numbers are going to record.
He brings stability and changes tempo when necessary, while maintaining team’s structure and organization. He is not getting himself out of positions often, yet he could improve in letting players get past him. Matic currently allows that to happen 1.2 times per 90, but with a different style of play – perhaps 4-3-3? – he could improve in that segment as well.