Sir Alex Ferguson has understandably spoke down Manchester United’s chances of winning the Premier League with 17 games remaining, but the reality is that his side have a 7-point lead just over the half way point of the season.
One of two English sides remaining in the Champions League, and an FA Cup replay against West Ham to come, the fixtures will come thick and fast for the record English champions.
Summer signing Robin van Persie has been a crucial part for the league leaders, top scorer in England’s top flight with 16 goals.
Here is a full run through of how Manchester United players have performed in the Premier League to this point:
Manchester United’s defence has shown weaknesses this season, conceding 28 goals through 21 games; more than any other side in the top half of the table. The league leaders have only kept 5 clean sheets in the Premier League to date, and 2 of these have come in their last 2 games.
Patrice Evra has only missed 90 this season; a 4-0 victory at home to Wigan in September in which Alexander Büttner played the full-game and scoring in the process. The French full back leads the team in tackles this season, as well as minutes played.
Rafael has made 4 tackles less than the full back on the opposite side. The tenacious Brazilian has been throwing himself into challenges time and time again.
As well as leading the team in tackles, Patrice Evra also leads the team in aerial duels won. The left back has been winning aerial challenges in his left back position and from set pieces. Standing at 5’8”, Evra has won 73% of his aerial duels this season – more than both of Stoke City’s centre backs who are renowned for their aerial ability; Robert Huth (66%) and Ryan Shawcross (62%).
Nemanja Vidic has won 71% of his aerial duels this season, although fellow centre backs Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand have been less successful, winning only 55% each.
Playing in the centre of midfield, Michael Carrick has picked off the most passes from the opposition this season, with 39 interceptions for Manchester United. Full backs Rafael and Patrice Evra fare well in this category also.
Errors Leading to Goals
Four players have been directly at fault for goals conceded in the Premier League this season.
10 minutes into the second half in their fixture at Southampton back in September, Patrice Evra slipped inside the penalty area allowing Morgan Schneiderlin a free header to give the home side a 2-1 lead. Two late goals from Robin van Persie meant United took all 3 points home from St Mary’s.
In what was expected to be a comfortable 3 points at Old Trafford on 24 November, Manchester United went 1 down to Queens Park Rangers in the 52nd minute. Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard at fault when he could only parry Kieron Dyer’s low attempt into the path of Jamie Mackie a couple yards out for the game’s opening goal. 3 goals in a space of 8 minutes saw the home side win the game 3-1.
Struggling Reading took an 8th minute lead when they hosted Manchester United on the 1st day of December. Jobi McAnuff’s cross into the 6 yard box was poorly dealt with by Jonny Evans. His heading fell straight into the path of Hal Robson-Kanu who finished nicely to put the home side ahead. In what turned out to be a crazy first half, Manchester United ran out 4-3 winners at the Madejski Stadium.
Another 4-3 victory for Manchester United came on Boxing Day at home to Newcastle. Once again, a defensive mistake from the league leaders gifted the opposition the lead. In this game, Demba Ba hit a hopeful effort from 30 yards out which David De Gea could only parry into the path of James Perch for the opening goal. Newcastle took the lead 3 times in this game but ended up losing 4-3.
Antonio Valencia, who has been involved in a number of tussles on the ground this season, leads the way with Michael Carrick on 20 fouls committed this season. It’s common for a sides central or defensive midfielder to lead the foul count. After all, it’s their job to break up the play of the opposition, right? Rafael has been penalised 19 times, and Paul Scholes, who hasn’t had the most game time is up there with 18.
Paul Scholes has accumulated 6 yellow cards this season – that’s 1 for every 3 fouls he commits. Perhaps his reputation goes before him. Both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have collected 4 each in the Premier League. Neither picked up a fifth before New Year’s Day, meaning they avoid facing a 1 match ban for the next yellow card they receive. Manchester United are 1 of 5 teams yet to receive a yellow card in the league this season, along with Norwich City, Reading, Southampton and Sunderland.
Sitting in the middle of the park, collecting short passes and making a number of them himself, Michael Carrick leads the team by some way in passes completed this season, with 1,458 in total. Only Mikel Arteta and Yaya Toure have completed more so far this season.
Defenders Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael all appear in the top 5 for passes completed in a Manchester United shirt this season, as does Paul Scholes.
As well as being the league’s top scorer, Robin van Persie has created more chances than any other player for Manchester United in 2012/13. The Dutch ace has set up 39 chances for team mates during his first season as a Red Devil. 6 of these turned into goals.
Wayne Rooney, who has spent much of this season in a deeper role than usual, often behind RvP has teed up 27 chances for team mates in the league. Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young complete the top 5.
Only Steven Gerrard (8) has more assists than Wayne Rooney in the Premier League this season. The number 10 has created 7 goals for Manchester United this season, and has scored 7 too.
Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia have 4 apiece, whilst 14 different players have registered an assist for Manchester United this season – no club has had more in the Premier League so far.
Robin van Persie has completed the most crosses for Manchester United this season. Their striker has accounted for half of the crosses from set pieces this season (53 of 107), and his success rate of 21% is only just below the club average of 22%. The league average is 22.48%.
Ashley Young (23%), Rafael (26%) and Patrice Evra (25%) are all above the club and league average, making the top 5 for successful crosses for Manchester United. Only van Persie has completed more crosses than Antonio Valencia this season, but the Ecuadorian has only completed 19% of his attempts. Despite causing United fans much frustration with a number of over hit and generally poor crosses, Valencia managed to avoid the Top 10 Worst Crossers list earlier this season, and still would not appear on the list if refreshed today.
Set Antonio Valencia running down the right wing appears to be one of Manchester United’s tactics this season with the winger attempting more dribbles than any of his team mates by some margin. Valencia has succeeded with 42% of his 59 dribble attempts.
Attacking full backs Patrice Evra and Rafael both make the list in attempts this season, with the Brazilian having a very good success rate of 75%. The only Manchester United player more successful in the top 5 is Robin van Persie who has only lost possession 19% of times when attempting to take on the opposition.
Free Kicks Won
Manchester United have been awarded 238 free kicks this season. Robin van Persie has been targeted the most this season, fouled 32 times alone. Ashley Young is next on the list, winning 30 free kicks. How much contact was made on these 30 decisions remains to be seen.
Manchester United have scored 54 Premier League goals in 21 games during the 2012/13 Premier League season, an incredible 13 more than the next nearest team (Manchester City – 41) with 17 games remaining. Bringing in Robin van Persie has been a huge part of this success, with the club having last season’s top 2 highest scorers in England’s top flight.
Robin van Persie has not disappointed so far following his £24 million move from Arsenal, staying fit to score in 13 of his 21 games this season, with a total of 16 goals that make him the league’s top scorer. United have won all 13 Premier League games in which RvP has scored.
Javier Hernandez has been known to be an impact substitute, and the Mexican is second on United’s goalscoring list with 8 goals; 1 more than Wayne Rooney.
Having scored just 2 goals in the previous 6 seasons at Old Trafford, Patrice Evra has scored 4 in the Premier League this season alone. The French left back scored in both games either side of Christmas. His backup, Alexander Büttner also has 1 goal, whilst centre back Jonny Evans has 3 and right back Rafael 2.
Unsurprisingly, Robin van Persie has fired in the most shots on goal this season, a total of 74. Excluding attempts that are blocked, the Dutch striker finds the target with 51% of his attempts (league average 44%) and converts 25% of his shots (league average 13%). In comparison, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez hits the target 46% of the time and converts 16% of his attempts.
Wayne Rooney betters Suarez in both accuracy and conversion rate, but his 52 attempts at goal is significantly lower than Uruguayan’s 123. In fact, van Persie and Rooney combined have only had 126 attempts on goal this season, but combine for 23 goals; 8 more than the Liverpool forward.
Danny Welbeck has converted just 7% of his attempts on goal in the Premier League, whilst Ashley Young has failed to register with any of his 21 attempts.