Manchester United's statistically strongest starting XI

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David de Gea and Paul Pogba

An argument could be made that, besides leaders Chelsea, Manchester United have been the most in-form side in the Premier League over the last few months.

Jose Mourinho’s men haven’t lost in England’s top-flight since October 23 and are currently on the longest unbeaten run across Europe’s top five leagues.

The Red Devils find themselves just two points off fourth place and, given that their next league game isn’t until March 4 against Bournemouth, it seems as good a time as any to look at their statistically best XI.

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The figures used are based on Man Utd’s 25 games so far in the 2016-17 league campaign and are determined by key player statistics for each position. So, which stars are in and who misses out?

Goalkeeper - David de Gea

Having played every single minute of the Premier League season thus far, the world-class David de Gea has to be the most obvious inclusion in this line-up.

United and Spain’s number one has only conceded 21 goals, he’s made 53 saves and Thibaut Courtois is the only goalkeeper who can better his tally of ten clean sheets.

The club’s Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons has showcased some fantastic reflexes and shot-stopping ability, and the 26-year-old even averages more passes per match (23.04) than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.

West Ham United v Manchester United - Premier League

Right-back - Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia made just 14 league appearances last season, but he’s already made (22) this term and the former winger has developed into one of the country’s best and most powerful right-backs.

The 31-year-old has won 119 duels, made 141 recoveries and has a 69% tackle success rate, compared to Matteo Darmian who has figures of 50, 51 and 64% in those respective areas.

Valencia’s committed more fouls (29) than any other United defender, but he’s delivered 125 crosses and the fact that he’s averaging 49.45 passes per game from full-back indicates how involved he always is.

Stoke City v Manchester United - Premier League

Centre-back - Eric Bailly

Eric Bailly was Mourinho’s first signing as Man United manager and the stats prove just how well the dominant 22-year-old has adapted to English football.

He’s made more interceptions (34) and recovered the ball on more occasions (87) than Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, as well as having a better tackle success rate (79%) than each of those three centre-backs.

The Ivorian has cleared the ball 77 times, compared to Smalling’s 90 and Jones’ 100, but he beats the Englishmen in terms of duels, winning 68 of them (66 for Jones, 52 for Smalling).

Centre-back - Marcos Rojo

Picking Bailly’s central defensive partner was undoubtedly the most difficult selection in this XI, and it’s Rojo who just gets the nod ahead of Jones and Smalling.

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Only Bailly can beat the Argentinian’s interceptions tally of 23, and he’s made more clearances (113), recoveries (71) and won more duels (72) than both Smalling and Jones, however it’s worth noting that Smalling has better tackling success - 78% to Rojo’s 68%.

Between them, Bailly and Rojo have given away more than two-and-a-half times as many fouls as Jones and Smalling combined, and they’ve each picked up three yellow cards, while the English pair are yet to receive a booking.

Left-back - Daley Blind

The classy, versatile Daley Blind earns the left-back spot and his 76% tackle success rate is better than Luke Shaw, Darmian and Valencia.

In comparison to Shaw, the Dutchman has won 44 more duels, won back possession on 56 more occasions and crossed the ball a massive 65 more times than the talented England international.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League

The gifted ball-playing defender averages 47.71 passes per match, he scored on Boxing Day and, wherever Blind plays, he always spreads calm and assuredness throughout the backline.

Centre-midfield - Ander Herrera

Ander Herrera has adopted a new role under Mourinho, but the former Athletic Bilbao man has been outstanding all campaign and become a vital component of United’s team.

The deep-lying playmaker has played 91 accurate long balls (Michael Carrick’s played 41), won the ball back 157 times, been successful with 78% of his tackles, won 25 50/50 battles and won 38 more duels than Marouane Fellaini.

Herrera is United’s only midfielder to get sent off, but on the ball, he’s provided three assists (Carrick and Fellaini have none) and his passes per game stat of 74.73 is the best in the whole squad.

Everton v Manchester United - Premier League

Centre-midfield - Paul Pogba

The £89 million price tag weighed Paul Pogba down for a fairly long time upon his return to Manchester, but in statistical terms, he and Herrera may be United’s most impressive performers.

The Frenchman averages 74.46 passes per match (1,787 in total) and has played a whopping 132 accurate long-range balls, but it’s his defensive stats which may surprise you.

Pogba has recovered the ball 179 times, he’s won 61 50/50s, an incredible 234 duels, and even though he’s conceded 53 fouls (more than any United player), his 73% tackle success rate is still pretty good.

Manchester United v Watford - Premier League

The ex-Juventus star has also registered three assists and four goals, while Carrick, Fellaini and Herrera are all yet to get on the scoresheet in the 2016-17 league campaign.

Right-wing – Juan Mata

Jamie Carragher raved about Juan Mata during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Watford, and the stats show that he’s probably Man Utd’s most effective attacking talent.

The diminutive Spaniard boasts a sensational 81% dribble success rate, significantly higher than Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 49% or Jesse Lingard’s 42%.

Mata’s created four big chances, taken more shots (36) than strikers like Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford, and he’s averaging 39.2 passes in each game.

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In terms of output, the 28-year-old has provided two assists and his six goals means only Zlatan Ibrahimovic has more for Man Utd in the league this term.

No. 10 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan

It was a very slow start for Mkhitaryan, but ever since coming into the side, he’s added pace, creativity, and it’s the Armenian who gets the coveted number ten role in this line-up ahead of his captain.

The talented attacking midfielder averages 32.33 passes per match, and while he’s only recorded three goals and one assist (Rooney has two goals and five assists), Henrikh has created as many big chances (seven) as Mata and Rooney combined.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League

Left-wing - Anthony Martial

He hasn’t been involved as much as he or the fans would’ve liked this year, but Anthony Martial’s stats suggest that his performances haven’t been substantially below the level of his exceptional first season.

The France forward, who loves to run at defenders, has a 57% dribbling success rate, he’s whipped in 36 crosses (more than any United wide man), and despite limited game time, he has three goals and four assists to his name.

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Also, per Opta, Martial has been involved in more Premier League goals for Man Utd (22) than any other player since his debut and remains one of the club’s most potent and dangerous attackers.

Striker - Zlatan Ibrahimovic

As everyone would expect, it’s the mercurial Ibrahimovic who takes the centre-forward berth and completes United’s statistically strongest XI.

The Swedish legend moved to Old Trafford on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain last summer, and 15 goals and four assists in 24 games prove that age really is just a number for the big man.

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Zlatan should have scored even more goals, when you consider that his shooting accuracy is 41% and he’s missed more clear chances (14), been caught offside more times (35) and taken more shots (103) than anyone else in the entire Premier League.

One of the finest players of a generation, Ibrahimovic has instantly become integral to Manchester United and possesses both the personality and the footballing attributes to fire them back to major silverware.

What do YOU think is Man Utd's best XI? Leave YOUR opinion in the comments box below!

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