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STATS: How do our wingers compare?

As the Moyes regime begins to take shape, it is a time for United fans to reminisce and remember the good times. Now, we all know the title race isn’t over and a new manager needs time to settle, but the retirement of Fergie himself was the final stage of the clubs transition; one that has seen the club regress.

On a commercial front the club are bigger than ever, recently signing a new deal with Nike that will seem them receive an astronomical £60m per season over the next five years. A worldwide fanbase reported to be in the region of 659m as of May 2012 shows The Red Devils acting as a religion rather than a football club. They are a phenomenon.

Ferguson was key in everything they are and as key as he was off the pitch in their rise in modern football, his tactics and man management were key ingredients to the club’s development on the pitch.

His love of wide players saw him manage some of the best wingers in the game. Andrei Kanchelskis, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo – Sir Alex played a key role in the growth of all of these players, and they played their part in developing Man United.

Recent seasons, however, have seen the wily old manager go in search of the elusive antidote to Barcelona’s hypnotic style as well as having to deal with a blue moon rising in their own city. In this period he has relied upon a few wingers that some would argue are not up to the standards that he has held in the past.

The demise of the Man United winger reached a new low on Saturday as the club stuttered to a narrow victory over Stoke City at home. Nani, an outlet for much of the fans anger over recent seasons, was booed off the pitch when Moyes replaced him with the more productive Adnan Januzaj.

“He is a regular and captain for Portugal so he is very talented,” said Moyes. “There were one or two decisions he might have made better, but he got us the (first) goal with a lovely ball. We have a lot of competition for places in the wide areas, incredible competition, and that is what we’re looking for.”

It wasn’t just last Saturday’s performance that has caused United fans to vent their anger at Nani though. Expected to fill the void left when his fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo left the club for Real Madrid, Nani has failed to live up to expectations. The 27-year old, who has just signed a new 5-year contract, has only scored 9 league goals for the club since the start of the 2011/12 season and has registered just 10 assists.

It hasn’t been much better from United’s other wingers either, with Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young both drifting in and out of form since joining the club. Valencia, who was a shining light during his early days at the club, has been found out by most opposition defenders and created an embarrassing 40 chances throughout the whole of last season.

Valencia chances created 2012.13 - cumulative

Young may be the worst of the bunch though, cutting inside to no avail at every given opportunity, almost as instinctive as his love for hitting the deck. The former Aston Villa winger, once dubbed as ‘world class’ by Martin O’Neill, has registered just 10 assists in the Premier League since the beginning of the 2011/12 season. If you compare these stats to Eden Hazard (below), and even Theo Walcott, from last season then you can see a clear difference in class compare to the wide men Moyes and Ferguson have had at their disposal.

Eden Hazard key passes and assists 2012.13

Moyes opted to start Shinji Kagawa against Stoke on Saturday and even though the club stuttered to a narrow victory, his side looked more fluid with the Japan international able to come inside as well as go down the line. A 93% pass completion rate shows his technical prowess and ability to link up the play rather than play a hopeless ball into the box.

Kagawa heat map vs Stoke this season

Kagawa has shown his productivity in the past, scoring 6 goals in the Premier League last season despite being a bit-part player, showing he can repeat his exploits from his time at Dortmund. Filling the gap on the opposite flank could well be their man of the moment, Adnan Januzaj. The Anderlecht academy product has produced some scintillating displays already in his short career at Old Trafford and the finishing clinic he displayed at Sunderland shows composure way beyond his years and from the evidence, way beyond his peers.

Moyes may have to give up on Fergie’s statement that wingers are loved at Old Trafford and develop his own attacking mantra to work from. Football has moved on since the ‘90s and although he kept the club up there with the best during his later years, he struggled to adapt tactically.

If the new boss is to make his own mark and truly replace Ferguson then he must move with the times by creating a new Man United.




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About Squawka

Kevin Blundell writes on behalf of the excellent football stat website Squawka.com. Follow @Squawka on Twitter.

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64 Comments

  1. zibbie says:

    sangria senorita in the Sun is hard to beat.

  2. zibbie says:

    DD spot on mate

    See my post on the other thread about Fletcher?

  3. zibbie says:

    I have no idea what is in Rooney’s head?
    if he becomes a Paul Scholes / sweinsteiger Manchester United could win three Champions League titles in the next 6 years.
    that said he does have 200 plus goals
    RvP has not had the impact this year as last?
    what a time to support the world’s greatest sporting club

  4. zibbie says:

    AJ could develop into a Thomas Mueller type. with better ball handling skills what a player

  5. Sparkz says:

    It’s all about balance. You don’t want your wingers to drift in too much – that clogs up the middle and can make things difficult….but at the same time you don’t want both of them hugging the touchline wide either. That makes us predictable and can lead to us being overrun in the middle of the park.

    Over the last few years we’ve usually had the right winger (Valencia/Nani) staying wide, and the left winger (Nani/Giggs/Welbeck) drifting about. Young’s an exception, he usually stays fairly wide on the left, although he then cuts in. That’s why we usually look so bland and predictable when him AND Valencia play, much of a muchness.

    I’m one of the few people who thought Kagawa individually played well on Saturday against Stoke. There’s no problem with him drifting in – as long as somebody else takes his space. Rooney did that a couple of times in the first half – Kagawa came infield and he drifted left. That’s what we need more of.

    If anyone remembers a couple of seasons ago when Harry Redknapp first got Gareth Bale to roam about the pitch. Spurs suffered because there was nobody taking up his space on the left. When he roamed under AVB though, somebody always swapped with him, so their balance was a lot better. That’s what we need to develop (as Samuel’s been saying for ages!).

    It all depends whether we’re strong enough to do something like that though, coz there’s still some glaring weaknesses in this team in midfield and defence. Maybe that’s why we haven’t always sparkled over the last couple of years – fergie realised we weren’t in a position to play a more fluid brand of football, like we did from 2006-2008…so he focused on being efficient and getting the results.

  6. The Truth says:

    @kanchelskis

    Yes, you’ve got one. Moyes is no hero of mine.

  7. slim says:

    Been said a ton of times here and its been derided most of the time. We got too many attacking players who have a realistic chance of bing regulars not to try Wayne Rooney in the Number 8 position (think he used to wear that number once). Add to that the game against Soceidad where Giggs showed us what we’re missing when Carrick gets a suitable partner.
    The number 8 position is an exciting one. Critics of this move say Rooney would be sacrificing this and giving up that but the position is a creative one. I believe our forward players(wingers) are coming along. Nani, Kags, Valencia are coming along. Its taking time but they’re all becoming more productive. Add to that Adnan playing anywhere comfortably across the front, we can’t but not try something dynamic in midfield.

  8. slim says:

    Been said a ton of times here and its been derided most of the time. We got too many attacking players who have a realistic chance of bing regulars not to try Wayne Rooney in the Number 8 position (think he used to wear that number once). Add to that the game against Soceidad where Giggs showed us what we’re missing when Carrick gets a suitable partner.
    The number 8 position is an exciting one. Critics of this move say Rooney would be sacrificing this and giving up that but the position is a creative one. I believe our forward players(wingers) are coming along. Nani, Kags, Valencia are coming along. Its taking time but they’re all becoming more productive. Add to that Adnan playing anywhere comfortably across the front, we can’t but not try something dynamic in midfield.
    I mean we could always just go get a midfielder in January or in the summer but we’ve been at it for years and we’ve not seen it fit to go out and get one. Fellaini doesn’t count. Why? Because he is not , for the umpteenth time a midfielder, at best, an attacking forward. The sooner we realise this, the better. And if we don’t give him time in the area he can be effective, he’ll just be another Robbie Keane at Liverpool, FFS, Jones has more about him in Midfield than Fellaini.
    On paper we got an abundance of forward players. We won’t see the best till we think outside the box OR spend some cash and let some players go to free up space

  9. slim says:

    Tallest man marries turkey? hmmm

  10. CTRED says:

    Gone are the days when you could just give the ball out wide to a fantastic winger and have them creat havoc with their dribbling, skills and speed. The modern defenses are too tight and close down space too well, and the outside backs are also more athletic in the past. Used to be the outside backs were the least mobile and agile on the pitch – now they are some of the most. To me the age of the electric winger is also the age of the strong center back and tall center forward – in the past. So I agree that Moyes should go his own way.

    I do think there is still a role for that type of winger in a counter attacking style, which is something we have not shown this year.

  11. BuddyJackson says:

    Love the idea of Kagawa and Adnan on the wings. I reckon a 4-2-3-1 could be the future. Let Rooney and Van Peasy have a half each upfront. Chico or an alternate striker as a late sub may require a shuffle back to 4-4-2. Would mean we retain width, control midfield and the defence is protected. One striker is enough and I never thought I’d say that about united.

  12. NBI Red Moyesy says:

    @ zibbie – “persons you go after” on an internet blog where you play keyboard warrior and spew 90% rubbish. Stupid fat drug addled American. Sums you up.

  13. SirAlex'sSon says:

    @NBI – A kettle calling a pot black…you are already known on this blog as an incessant whinny fucker!

  14. hullman76 says:

    Can someone please explain to me the difference between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1?? I mean REALLY explain?

    Okay the 4-2-3-1 might look exciting on paper but in all seriousness its just a 4-4-2 with a forward dropping back (exactly what were doing now)

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