Europe’s biggest leagues will resume this weekend following the international break and Manchester United face a daunting trip to Anfield to play Liverpool on Monday night in what’s sure to be a ferocious showdown.
With Jurgen Klopp’s side currently above Jose Mourinho’s men in the table, we’ve constructed United’s best XI according to some key player statistics for every position.
The stats used are purely based on Man Utd’s seven Premier League outings so far this season, and not their games in the Europa League or EFL Cup. So, who’s in and who’s out?
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GK – David de Gea
It comes as no surprise whatsoever that David de Gea takes the goalkeeping position, given he’s played every minute of United’s league campaign thus far.
The 25-year-old Spaniard has kept the joint second-highest number of clean sheets in the league, he averages over ten accurate passes per match and has made more saves than Claudio Bravo, Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois.
RB – Antonio Valencia
Like De Gea, Antonio Valencia has also started all of United’s league matches and the winger-turned-full-back has flourished under Mourinho in his new role.
The Ecuadorian boasts a 70% tackle success rate, he’s won 43 duels, recovered the ball on 36 different occasions and averaged more than 40 passes each game. Going forward, Valencia has delivered 29 crosses and will be buoyed after scoring for his country last week.
CB – Eric Bailly
Many fans are in agreement that Eric Bailly, Mourinho’s first signing at Old Trafford, has made a fantastic start to his career in England and the stats certainly back that up.
The 22-year-old centre-back has made 23 interceptions, 41 clearances and produced an impressive figure of 25 accurate long passes.
The aggressive Ivorian has committed the most fouls (nine) out of United’s defenders, however he has also won the ball back for his team 43 times, which is more than any of his defensive teammates.
CB – Daley Blind
Some may be surprised to see that it’s Daley Blind, and not Chris Smalling, who partners Bailly at the heart of the defence in this line-up – and while it was a tough call, the versatile star warrants his place.
Smalling marginally averages more clearances per game (4.6 to Blind’s 4.3) and the Englishman has remarkably won 100% of his tackles, but Blind’s percentage in this stat is also very high at 92%.
The Dutchman has made ten more tackles, 16 more interceptions, won 12 more duels and recovered possession 33 more times than Smalling, in addition to playing 48.5 passes each game on average.
If that wasn’t enough, the former Ajax man also provided two brilliant corner kick deliveries against Leicester City to assist both Smalling and Paul Pogba.
LB – Luke Shaw
Blind could have filled in at left-back to accommodate Smalling, but Luke Shaw is without question the first-choice in this role and what he adds to the FA Cup holders goes far beyond the numbers.
The 21-year-old has struggled with injury in recent weeks, but his energy and turn of pace means he can make the difference at both ends of the pitch and not many players cover as much ground as he does during matches.
Statistically, in comparison to his opposite number Valencia (since Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo are yet to feature in the league), Shaw has made less fouls, more interceptions and lost less duels.
CM – Paul Pogba
He may not have lived up to his world-record transfer fee yet, but in statistical terms, Paul Pogba may be Man United’s best player in the league so far this season.
The French maestro has completed a massive 386 passes, which works out at over 64 per game on average, and played 22 accurate long-range passes. He’s given away more fouls (12) than Fellaini and Herrera but he’s successful with 73% of his tackles.
The 23-year-old’s physical prowess is quantified by the fact that he’s won 22 50-50 battles (Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera have won eight between them), he’s regained possession 43 times and won 53 duels - more than anyone else in this entire XI.
Pogba is United’s only central midfielder to score in the Premier League this term (he’s also hit the woodwork twice) and surely it won’t be long before all these numbers translate into world-class displays.
CM – Marouane Fellaini
Fellaini gets the nod alongside Pogba in this team, even though Herrera has played the same amount of games as him and been brilliant of late – especially with his pressing.
The Spaniard has a much better tackle success rate (88%) to Fellaini (69%), and the Belgian’s discipline is poor, having conceded nearly twice as many fouls. However, the ex-Everton midfielder has produced some surprisingly good stats in other key areas.
The 28-year-old has passed the ball 75 more times than Herrera has and he’s played 15 accurate long balls compared to Herrera’s eight.
Defensively, he’s won two more 50-50s than the new Spain international and 28 more duels (mostly in the air). Fellaini has recovered possession 49 times (23 for Herrera) and made one more interception, for good measure.
RM – Marcus Rashford
Since summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan has started just one league game for his new club, Marcus Rashford earns a deserved inclusion on the right-hand side of the attack.
The 18-year-old has scored three league goals (only Ibrahimovic has scored more for United) and he’s supplied 13 crosses – more than Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial combined.
Rashford’s dribbling success rate is fairly low at 33%, but the fearless striker has produced ten attempts on goal and also created one clear chance for his team across his five appearances.
NO. 10 – Juan Mata
Many people felt that Juan Mata was set to leave the Red Devils when Mourinho arrived, but instead the 28-year-old has outshone Wayne Rooney and takes the coveted number ten role in this XI.
It’s tight in terms of end product, with Mata scoring two goals and providing an assist while the United captain currently has one goal and two assists to his name.
The classy playmaker has registered 235 passes at an accuracy of 83%, whereas Rooney has played 227 passes with 76% accuracy. Mata has hit the target with seven of his nine shots, compared to six out of 12 for Rooney, and he’s completed a higher combination of through balls and longer range passes.
The England skipper has created one more big chance than the little Spaniard and produced 30 more crosses, however Mata’s skilful dribbling style has an 80% success rate compared to a worryingly low score of 40% for Rooney in that regard.
LM – Tony Martial
Anthony Martial finished his debut campaign with United as their top scorer and, after a slow start to this season, he seems to be rediscovering his best form. His one Premier League goal this term was a beauty against Stoke City and he’s also given two assists.
Lingard’s movement off the ball is very good and the England winger has created one more key chance than Martial, however the French starlet has crossed the ball eight more times and tested the ‘keeper with shots more often.
Crucially when playing out wide, Martial has the ability to beat his man, he boasts a decent 44% dribbling success rate and the 20-year-old has made 111 passes, more than both Lingard and Rashford.
ST – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
It was only ever going to be one man at striker and, as you expected, Zlatan Ibrahimovic completes Manchester United’s statistically strongest XI.
The world-class centre-forward bagged four goals over the first four league games of the season and would have scored even more since then had he not missed five big goalscoring opportunities.
Rashford has a slightly better shot accuracy (40% to Zlatan’s 33%) but that’s mainly because the enigmatic Swede has taken more shots (36) than anyone else in the whole Premier League.
The 35-year-old is yet to provide an assist, and only Christian Benteke has been caught offside more than him, but the fact that he’s created three clear-cut chances for his teammates proves he is capable of setting them up as well as finishing them.
Do YOU think this stats-based XI is Man Utd's best line-up? Have YOUR say in the comments box below!
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