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Injuries – Comparing United With Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool and Spurs…

Even before the terrible news that Vidic’s season is over, many of us were already questioning whether the football Gods were conspiring against United with an unusually high rate of injuries this season. Indeed, some have gone further, raising the concern that this is not an isolated phenomenon but the continuation of a trend that has been evident for several years—a fact that would point to a more earthly cause such as human incompetence, rather than the mischievous deeds of some dastardly deity.

Is this season exceptional for injuries, compared to what United typically experience? Is it bad compared to our major competitors? And what about United’s injury record over the longer term – exactly how does that stack up? With those questions in mind, I trundled my mouse over to, captured whatever data was available, pumped it into Microsoft Excel and run the numbers. What I found was generally good news about our longer term record—but it definitely confirms our worst fears about the current season.


Data is available for all current PL clubs back to August 2002. However, I focused on only six clubs: United, Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and City. Partly, this was because of the effort (though now it’s reasonably quick to add another club). More importantly, though, the number of injuries is bound to be affected by how many matches a club plays, and most clubs typically have a significantly lighter schedule than us (since most are not regularly in Europe and do not go far in the various domestic cups). In terms of schedule, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs are probably most comparable to us; and of course, I included City, for obvious reasons.

For each injury, the data includes the player’s name, a brief description of the type of injury, and the date reported. Unfortunately, it does not include the date that the player returned to action. I had been hoping to calculate how many matches each injury cost that player, but it wasn’t possible. Consequently, I wasn’t able to determine whether our injuries are generally more or less severe than those at other clubs.

However, I was able to break the data down into major categories of injury (Ankle, Calf, Hip etc) and I was also able to analyze the data both by calendar year and by season (for the season dates, I counted each season from July 1, since the actual start date moves around, and injuries also occur between seasons).

The Bottom Line

So what of it? How do United fare?

In regards to our current plight, the answer can be summed in one word: bloody shithouse (OK, make that two words). Looking first at the calendar year 2011, already we have reported 65 injuries, making it our third-worst year (since the beginning of 2003), and we still have a handful of matches remaining this year. Our worst year in that period was 2009, when we had 71 injuries, but just one more injury this year will equal our second-worst (66 in 2004). Incidentally, our average for a full calendar year is 56.625, so we are already way above that. Our best year was 2005, with 41.

However, when we break the data down by season, the picture looks dramatically worse.

The data includes nine full seasons (2002-03 to 2010-11) plus this season’s partial data. On average over the nine full seasons, we have reported 57.1 injuries. Our worst season was 2002-03, with 74, and our best was 2005-06, with 46. Last season, we had 60, slightly worse than average.

This season, though, we are already at 40, and the season is not yet at the half-way mark. Although it is difficult to calculate, a rough estimation shows that if we keep going at the current rate, we could end the season with well over 100 injuries. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure. However, when I did the same estimation for the other teams, most actually do appear to be on track for what you would expect based on their history. Only ours and Arsenal’s are wildly out of whack, indicating that we both may be heading for very bad seasons in terms of injury.

I also counted the number of injuries we report each season, between July 1 and December 7. On average, over the previous nine seasons, we reported 27 injuries during that period. This year, as I have already said, it is 40, which is a record for that period. Any way you look at it, this is a horror season.

However, as discussed in the next section, the good news is that United actually seem to be doing OK in the longer term. Our record isn’t the best, but it’s not the worst either – about middle of the pack, in fact. (And our figures look even better when you exclude City, who, as we know, have not generally had a busy schedule until recently.)

The Details

And so, to the details.

1. Number of injuries, by calendar year

United Arsenal Chelsea Liverpool Spurs Man City
2002 36 41 32 27 50 24
2003 60 62 45 48 43 44
2004 66 69 61 43 72 42
2005 41 55 50 49 57 45
2006 51 62 38 45 67 47
2007 50 58 54 32 58 30
2008 54 69 45 27 39 36
2009 71 83 49 47 50 68
2010 60 75 50 53 71 45
2011 65 64 22 40 63 30
Average* 56.63 66.63 49 43 57.13 44.63
Best 41 41 32 27 39 24
Worst 71 83 61 53 72 68


* The Average, Best and Worse figures exclude 2002 and 2011, which are both incomplete years.

2. Number of injuries, by season

United Arsenal Chelsea Liverpool Spurs Man City
2002-2003 74 79 56 44 71 40
2003-2004 50 59 56 53 51 48
2004-2005 56 62 51 47 73 36
2005-2006 46 59 41 39 47 55
2006-2007 49 57 47 40 77 36
2007-2008 52 60 42 32 47 27
2008-2009 61 74 46 31 43 51
2009-2010 66 89 58 58 54 64
2010-2011 60 64 34 54 79 42
2011-2012 40 35 15 13 28 12
Average* 57.11111 67 47.88889 44.22222 60.22222 44.33333
Best 46 57 34 31 43 27
Worst 74 89 58 58 79 64

* The Average, Best and Worse figures exclude 2011-12, which is incomplete.

An analysis of the seasonal data raises a couple of interesting points. First of all, while commonsense might suggest that the rate of injuries increases as we get deeper into a season, the data suggests otherwise. In six of the previous nine seasons, 48% or more of injuries had occurred by this date (December 7), even though a typical season is less than 40% done by then.

Secondly, the average number of injuries suffered by this stage of a season is only 27. We are way above that, with 40. In the period 2002-03 to present, we have never had as many injuries by this stage of a season. Last season, the figure was 32. The season before, it was 36—and both those seasons included the long-term injury to Hargreaves (who hardly counts as a seasonal injury).

3. Types of Injuries

United Average
Ankle 21.5% 19.8%
Knee 18.1% 19.8%
Hip 2.9% 3.1%
Calf 8.5% 7.8%
Shoulder 1.6% 1.9%
Back 2.2% 4.3%
Hamstring 12.8% 12.4%
Groin 7.4% 9.5%


This table shows the percentage of injuries that fall into each category (for example, 21.5% of our injuries were ankle/foot injuries). I did not include all types of injuries, and although I did tabulate this data for all six clubs, I am only including the data for United and the Average here. In general we have held up pretty well—we are slightly better than average in some areas, slightly worse in others. The biggest concern would be ankle injuries, which occur at almost 2% higher than the average rate (especially since this is such a large category for football). Our calf injuries are also running at slightly above the average rate, and perhaps it is worth noting that tackling is one of the main causes of lower-leg injuries generally. Perhaps we aren’t getting as much protection from the referees as some ABUs would have us believe!

On the other hand, we have done well in back injuries (despite Rio’s problems) and groin injuries. We have also done well in shoulder injuries (something I was previously concerned about): although the data shows we are about average, Rafael da Silva’s shoulder problems actually contribute a large proportion of those. When you remove them from the equation, our figures are way better than the average.

(By the way, Arsenal suffer twice as many shoulder injuries as anyone else, and more than three times as many as some. If I was an Arsenal supporter or coach, I would be asking questions about that, especially since shoulder injuries are relatively rare for footballers. But since I am not an Arsenal supporter or coach, I don’t give a shit.)

Overall, though, Arsenal have by far the worst record of the six clubs, in total number of injuries, seasonal averages or annual averages. The Gunners’ season average of 67 is worse than the maximum ever recorded by three of the clubs. Their minimum (57) is as high as our average and almost as high as several teams’ maximum. And looking at the type of injuries they suffer doesn’t offer many clues: apart from the anomaly I mentioned about shoulder injuries, the other categories all seem in line (in terms of percentage). It is not as if, for example, they suffer a disproportionate percentage of lower-leg injuries. Quite simply, their players get injured more often, in every way, and have been doing so over a long period of time.


Although the available data (which comes from has some limitations, it does provide some comfort by showing that in general, our record is about average. However, Liverpool, Chelsea and City have been consistently and significantly better, and that’s a point of interest.

In City’s case, that may partially be explained by their lighter schedule in previous seasons. However, it should be noted that their rates this season, and this calendar year, are both extremely low—only 12 so far this season, and 30 for the calendar year to date. (I am sure you will join me in hoping their luck runs out sooner rather than later.)

But it is undeniable that, so far, this season has been our worst, and if the current rate continues, it will be our worst by a very large margin.

About Alistair Langford-Wilson

View all posts by Alistair Langford-Wilson »



  1. RedBlizzard says:


    what were you doing on a city blog?

  2. Sandeep1878 says:

    Alistair aka StatesideAussie..

    awesome article..great reserach work and lotsa efforts behind this

  3. smartalex says:

    kanchelskis – Wow! That explains a lot. Very difficult news for the lad. Get Well Fletch!

  4. MG says:

    Get well soon Fletch

    I guess we’ll be buying that midfielder once for all

    My sources tell me that Mrs Sneijder is indeed in Manchester checking out the curry houses for the impending transfer in January

    My sources also tell me that Mario Goetz has bought a sun tanning studio in cheshire

    And that Ganso and Neymar have joined Raph and Fab in The Glass House production this Christmas to test the waters of moving to England


  5. smartalex says:

    ‘Darren Fletcher is taking an extended break from football as the Manchester United midfielder recovers from a serious health issue, the club have revealed.’

  6. smartalex says:

    A club statement read: ‘On behalf of Darren Fletcher, Manchester United wishes to announce that he is taking an extended break from football for health reasons. Over the past year he has had several absence periods which we have attributed to a viral illness in order to respect his right to medical confidentiality. Darren has, in fact, been suffering from ulcerative colitis (a chronic inflammatory bowel condition) for some time preceding this.’

    ‘Whilst he was able to maintain remission of symptoms for a considerable period this has proved more difficult recently and Darren’s continued desire to play and his loyalty to both his club and country has probably compromised the chances of optimising his own health and fitness. He has therefore accepted medical advice to take an extended break from the demands of training and playing in order to afford the best chance possible of achieving full remission once again.’

    ‘We request that his privacy is respected and hope that the removal of the additional stress associated with speculation regarding his health will also aid his recovery.’

  7. Mikekelly12 says:

    My mates are city fans (spit, puke). They contribute on city blogs as I do here. I go on sometimes to see what they’ve posted after games so I have some ammunition when I meat them in the pub.
    Fuck me Fletch!! Get well soon fella!

  8. smartalex says:

    Heartbreaking fucking news that about Fletcher. As bad, or worse than Vidic.
    The poor soul must have been going through hell for us, for a long time too.
    Get well son!

  9. Sandeep1878 says:


    says we gonna miss 2 big game players in Vida and Fletcherinho..


  10. smartalex says:

    Update this threads stats in Real Time StatesideAussie!

  11. Mikekelly12 says:

    No wonder his form dipped. What a fucking legend being able to play premier league, champions league and international football with that condition! I feel bad for questioning his form! Good luck with the recovery Fletch. Time for someone to step up!

  12. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    Oh God. Just read about Fletch. Hope he’s okay, not anything serious. He getting well is of utmost importance. Football’s second to that.

  13. RedDeviled Egg says:

    Maybe Hargreaves’ comments weren’t so out of line.

    We can’t keep anyone fit for long runs of games.

  14. NotoriousRedDevil says:

    Great article Stateside, a joy to read especially as it went on to prove what I’ve been saying.

  15. Captain Park says:

    Yup, this article just about confirms my suspicion all along, that this is, to date, one of our worst seasons, injury-wise.

    I believe that we tend to suffer more injuries than most other clubs because of the demands placed on us. We’re always challenging on all fronts and we have a heavier schedule than most. Besides, we’re involved in very intense games week in week out because every opponent we face attempts to create a ‘cup tie’ situation for us. I certainly do not believe that any of the other teams has to face this situation every week.

    Well, that’s my take. I certainly hope that we’ll get our players back sooner than expected and that the 2nd half of the season will see much less injuries.

  16. slim says:

    Sad news about Fletch, the wordings of the press release makes it look pretty serious. i mean the first paragraph “On behalf of Manchester United……….”. Looks like he’s taking a break from all physical activities

  17. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    More than worrying about what Fletch’s absence will do the midfield, I’m way more worried about him recovering fully. All the articles make it sound serious. And it’s an illness, a health issue, not a bone or ligament problem. Take your time and get well completely Fletch.

  18. King Eric says:

    Stateside – Is it yours? Nice work mate. Never put you down as an Alistair!!

    Spence – No story mate, Spencer was one of my favourite posters on here.

  19. StatesideAussie says:

    Awful news about Fletcher, just fucking awful. I hope he gets well and can come back, for our sake and for his.

    SmartAlex … here’s the real-time update: Fletcher wasn’t previously listed as injured or ill in my stats, so that now makes calendar 2011 our second-worst year (equal to 2004). It also means we have had four long-term injuries/illnesses this season: TC, Ando, Vidic and now Fletcher. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough data to know for sure, but I am certainly struggling to remember anything comparable in recent history.

    Slim … Costas sounds like an “Alistair”? But isn’t he Greek? Lol. Alistair is a Scottish variant of that fine old Greek name, Alexander. Though so far as I know, I don’t have a drop of Scots (or Greek) blood in me. Scotch yes, Scots no! Ouzo yes, Greek no!

  20. Paco Rabane says:

    Lord Alister! :)

  21. smartalex says:

    A real-time update of my 14:17 comment is that when you also consider that Fletcher has only occasionally been available to Sir Alex, the over-riding fact is that we’ve done damn well this season despite a severe injury crisis.

    It seems extremely doubtful that Fletcher or Vidic will play again this season, but the others will be back refreshed and played into form for squeaky-bum time.

  22. StatesideAussie says:

    Fletcher’s illness brings us to 41 so this season. For the period up to December 7, that makes it our worst in the last 10 seasons. Prior to the report of his illness, we had 40, which equaled the 09/10 season as our worst.

    With data for 6 clubs over 10 years each, there are 60 seasons of stats to compare. Of those 60 seasons, only three have been worse (for the period to Dec 7): Arsenal with 45 in 09/10, Spurs twice (43 in 10/11 and 42 in 02/03).

    So there you have it: this season for United is one of the four worst for these six clubs over the last 10 seasons.

  23. StatesideAussie says:

    SmartAlex … yes, I agree. To be 2nd, and only 2 points off the pace, at this time of the year, having suffered more than 3 times the number of injuries as Shitty, puts us in a very good light. It is definitely cause for optimism. Surely, not even the glummest pessimist could predict that our horror run of injuries will continue — or that Shitty’s run of charm will continue either (only 12 injuries this season? What the fuck is up with that?).

    As I noted, overall we have fared quite well. Still, I can only gaze with envy at the injury track-record of the rent boys and dippers. For them to have been consistently better, over a reasonably long period of time, does raise eyebrows. I am extremely reluctant to speculate about causes, but given that our Carrington facility is widely and frequently touted as state-of-the-art and among the best in the business, it does make one wonder.

  24. smartalex says:

    Perhaps it’s as simple as the extra 5% that Sir Alex is able to glean from our players brings us Silverware and comes at a cost.

    Especially when World Cup / Euro squads take our players that have already depleted their reserves and drain them completely.

  25. Saad says:

    2008-2009 stats are interesting. We had way more injuries than Liverpool and still ended up winning the title ahead of them, not to mention winning a League Cup and going to 2 UCL finals, winning one.

  26. Saad says:

    Clearly we’ve been more impressive as a squad than the other five clubs this season coz despite suffering way more injuries, we’re 2nd in the league 2 points behind Shitey. Thanks for this analysis, Scott.

  27. Saad says:

    Table 3 should also include the league average for the same injuries minus United.

  28. Paco Rabane says:

    Saad – Don’t forget, we had a genius leading us in 08/09. The vermin had Rafa the buffoon! :P

  29. StatesideAussie says:

    Saad … The average is based on just the 6 clubs, not the entire league. I haven’t crunched the figures for the enire league, because it’s quite a bit of work and I haven’t had time. It was easy enough to calculate a new average based only on Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Shitty, though. It didn’t make much difference. Here it is:

    United: 21.5%
    Average (all six): 19.8%
    (Average, minus United): 19.4%

    United: 18.1%
    Average (all six): 19.8%
    Average (five): 20.1%

    United: 2.9%
    Average (all 6): 3.1%
    Average (5): 3.2%

    United: 8.5%
    Average (all 6): 7.8%
    Average (5): 7.6%

    United: 1.6%
    Average (all 6): 1.9%
    Average (5): 1.9%

    United: 2.2%
    Av (6): 4.3%
    Av (5): 4.7%

    United: 12.8%
    Av (6): 12.4%
    Av (5) 12.3%

    United: 7.4%
    Av (6): 9.5%
    Av (5) 9.9%

  30. McQueen says:

    Nice article!

    Interesting figures, especially the high injury numbers in successful seasons.

    One thing to consider is that we probably go further in competitions in these successful seasons and therefore play more games, and a higher rate of games at the end of the season.

    Haven’t looked specifically yet but would be interesting to see if injury numbers are higher in seasons after international tournaments, where players don’t get a full summer break?

    Also, 09/10 seems to be a bad year for injuries for EVERY team. Definitely above average for all teams, wonder why? Could it be the weather?!

  31. McQueen says:

    09/10 is the WORST year for Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool AND City! Significantly above average for us and slightly above average too for Spurs. Strange.

  32. NBI Red Onion says:

    90% of our injuries are the twins and michael owen. Take them out of the stats and we have 5 injuries on average a year.

    Also re ankle injuries we do get some hard tackles and we need to improve our Barca style diving to avoid the, Barca players spend half of each game resting on the grass and playing dead.

  33. NBI Red Onion says:

    The figure missing here is the number of games played per season – the stats dont make sense without them.

    Over the last 5 yrs United have played more games – FA Cup, Carling, European – we played more games than Arsenal and Chelsea – I would guess at least 10 more – so the stats need to be weighted and divided by number of games to make sense and mean something.

  34. dfm says:

    Scott, I’m an Arsenal fan, but I did really enjoy reading article, even if pitched to United fans. Good work.

  35. dfm says:

    Sorry, Alastair I meant…

  36. StatesideAussie says:

    @NBI … I noted some data limitations in the original article. I am trying to compile data on the number of matches played by each team each season, but it is an arduous task. I am not sure how useful it will be, given that the duration of individual injuries is not known, but we will see. I’m not sure I agree that without this information, the stats “don’t make sense.” I most definitely do not agree that Owen and the twins account for 90% of our injuries. According to the data, Rafael has had a total of 13 injuries (which is a lot), but Fabio has only had 4 and Owen only 5. As noted, this only counts the number of injuries, not their duration. But if I could get the duration data, my guess is that long-term injuries like those to Hargreaves and TonyV would still mean that Owen and the twins do not account for 90% of our injuries.

    @McQueen … the point about us playing more games (since we tend to go further in cup competitions) is something I commented on earlier. In some ways, it raises a bit of a puzzle. On the one hand, if injuries affect our results (which is the usual assumption), then logic would dictate we’re less likely to progress in cup competitions when we have a lot of injuries (and therefore, likely to play fewer matches). But if that’s true, and we play fewer matches, then the same logic would dictate that we should have fewer injuries. So “more injuries” leads to “worse performances”, which leads to “fewer matches”, but of course, “fewer matches” should mean “fewer injuries”; meanwhile “fewer injuries” should mean “better performances”, which should lead to “more matches” and therefore “more injuries”.

    Since those scenarios don’t make sense, I suspect the truth is that we do suffer more injuries as we play more matches, but that the squad is able to overcome these and achieve in spite of them. So although injuries may make it more difficult for us to win, we do nevertheless keep winning — which is a testament to the quality of our squad (despite what some on here think) and our coaches and, of course, the peerless guidance of SAF.

  37. Dave Malaysia says:

    @StatesideAussie: Great work, great article, thks.

    Fergie defends our medical or sports science dept. But u do detect a bit of unhappiness sometimes with all the injuries.

    He said the next step is building that new medical facility at Carrington. I hope centralising everything in one new purpose built facility will help reduce our injury problems.

    Supposedly in the future we dont have to use Bridgewater for medicals on new signings, will be done ay Carrington.

  38. daemondada says:

    Thanks SA.
    D light u’v thrown on the injuries to our players has bn a I’ve stated previously,we need to seek alternative therapy.I for one subscribe to faith healing.not wishing to sound like a bigot yet wit God ALL things are possible!lets take out time to pray and fast for our lads fellas.thanks.

  39. Wiseman says:

    Wow, great article, and great analysis.

    As an Arsenal fan this is one time when I am not that happy for being at the top of the table.

    At least it confims what Arsenal fans have always thought, we get waaaaaaaaay too many injuries for whatever reason.

  40. Lebo manc says:

    I still didn’t get why the arsenal players get injured a lot… And why man shitty and Liverfool players don’t get injured as much as the others… Anyways I hope our luck turns the other way around and the players stop getting injured that much…

  41. smartalex says:

    Lebo manc – it’s quite simple my friend:

    Wiseman’s arsenal players are made of crystal, they ‘ping’ nicely, but shatter easily.

    Our United players are brutally attacked by Premiership neanderthals, and unprotected by the insipid referees under Bernstein’s control.

    As it is now, so was it always. We overcome these trials as a matter of course.

    ps Wiseman: Fair comment from a respected and sensibly disliked Gooner, cheers!

  42. mjhhli says:

    How could you wish injuries on other teams? out of order if you ask me.

  43. StatesideAussie says:

    @mjhhli … if you’re referring to the comment in my article (where I said, “I am sure you will join me in hoping their luck runs out sooner rather than later.”), the comment was meant in a light-hearted way. I have never wished actual injury on any player: even when Hargreaves moved to City I was quite outspoken in my criticism of those on here who wished him serious and permanent harm.

  44. Lebo manc says:


    Well ya thx you made it sound easy


    I always liked Hargreaves and I felt really bad for him when he offered united to stay at the club for free for a full season and they refused. And ya I wished injuries on other teams and players…. Especially balloteli, I HATE him, he tries to act like cantona too… I was also really pissed when he had that “why always me” shirt in the derby


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