Football Features

10 stats explaining why Man Utd have one of the most exciting attacks around right now

By Chris Smith

Man Utd attacking stats analysis

Published: 18:30, 5 July 2020

By easing past Bournemouth 5-2 on Saturday, Manchester United made it 16 games unbeaten across all competitions.

For a while, it looked as if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had lost the magic touch which landed him the manager’s job on a permanent basis in the first place. However, the Norwegian is now firmly back on track and as a result, United are on the charge for Champions League qualification, while FA Cup and Europa League are also well within their grasp.

One of the most striking things about the Red Devils during this time has been their ferocious attack. Whether it be a counter-attack at break-neck speed or picking the lock with some precision passing, United can seemingly open you up at a moment’s notice.

With that in mind, we’ve put together 11 stats which prove Manchester United have one of the most exciting attacks around right now.

1. Famous front three

Much has quite rightly been made of Liverpool’s fearsome front three over the past few seasons, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino tearing teams apart.

However, it would appear as if Solskjaer is building a deadly trident of his own, with Mason Greenwood (15), Anthony Martial (20) and Marcus Rashford (20) combining to score a massive 55 goals across all competitions so far this season, four more than Salah, Mane and Firmino.

Add a further 16 assists to that and, well, this side has terrifying potential.

2. Career year

Solskjaer’s efforts to create a Liverpool-esque front three have undoubtedly been helped by the fact that Rashford, Martial and Greenwood are all enjoying their best goalscoring seasons to date.

The latter’s 15-goal haul is obviously his best, as this is the first time he’s played more than four games in a season. But Rashford’s 20-goal total is miles ahead of his previous career-high of 13 (2017/18 and 2018/19). Meanwhile, Martial is also on 20, three more than the 17 he netted in his first season as a Manchester United player (2015/16).

3. Twenty’s plenty

We’ve always known Rashford is a supreme talent. The 22-year-old can strike a ball better than most forwards on the planet, is lightning quick and almost impossible to stop when he gets you one-on-one. For one reason or another, whether it be managers playing him out of position or he himself truly trying to discover his best role, Rashford hasn’t quite exploded in the way we all expected him to. Until now.

The England international scored United’s second in their 5-2 win over Bournemouth last time out and, in doing so, he didn’t just end a five-game mini goalscoring drought but also became the club’s first academy graduate to reach 20 goals since Paul Scholes did so in 2003.

Wonder who could be next?

4. In fine company

Yes, chances are that Mason Greenwood will be the next United academy graduate to break the 20-goal mark this season.

At just 18 years of age, the striker has already netted 15 goals in all competitions, including another two in the win over Bournemouth on Saturday.

“Mason is one of the best, if not the best, finisher I have worked with and seen,” said Solskjaer (who played with Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole, two of the top three goalscorers in Premier League history) after they beat Bournemouth.

It’s early days, but in one small way Greenwood has already demonstrating precociousness to rival some of the greats. His eight Premier League goals this season point to a brilliant record for a teenager in isolation, but when it’s held up against some of the other youngsters of the Premier League era, you begin to get a sense of just how good this kid could become.

Only Michael Owen (97/98 and 98/99), Robbie Fowler (93/94) and Wayne Rooney (2003/04) have scored more goals aged 18 or younger in a single Premier League season than Greenwood has this term and with six games still to play, there’s a strong chance he’ll be overtaking a couple of those above him before 2019/20 is out.

 

5. Emulating greatness

It generally goes without saying that any successful side needs to turn their home ground into a fortress. Just look at the great Chelsea teams under Jose Mourinho or Liverpool’s current crop for evidence of that.

Rashford and Martial clearly received that memo, too, with the two forwards scoring 11 and 10 Premier League goals at Old Trafford respectively so far this season.

In fact, this is the first time two Manchester United players have scored 10 or more Premier League goals at home in the same season since Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo did so back in 2007/08.

6. Back-up brigade

Many mocked Solskjaer and Man Utd for missing out on a number of lofty targets before ending up with former Watford striker Odion Ighalo on loan in January, but how the Nigerian has proved his doubters wrong.

Ighalo has obviously been nothing more than back-up for Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, but has fulfilled that role brilliantly.

The 31-year-old hasn’t netted in the Premier League but has managed five goals in cup competitions, while he’s also the first player since James Hanson in 1925 to score in each of his first four competitive starts for Manchester United.

7. The Bruno effect

Few need reminding about the remarkable effect Bruno Fernandes has had on this United team since joining from Sporting CP in January. Although admittedly premature, his inclusion in the BBC’s Team of the Year tells you how highly regarded he is.

But his influence on the Red Devils is illustrated in the fact that Solskjaer’s men have averaged 2.2 goals per game in the Premier League since the Portugal international made his debut. That’s up from 1.5 goals per game prior to his arrival and more than any other team in the Premier League during that time.

8. Out of the blocks

You’d be doing Fernandes a disservice if you didn’t look at his individual numbers, too.

The 25-year-old grabbed a goal and two assists as United demolished Bournemouth and in doing so, moved himself to 11 direct goal involvements in just nine Premier League games so far.

Only five players in competition history have achieved that feat in fewer games: Papiss Cisse (8), Mark Viduka (8), Alan Shearer (8), Mick Quinn (6) and Sergio Aguero (6).

9. On a roll

United are much better defensively nowadays than they receive credit for. After all, they’re nine games unbeaten in the Premier League — the longest active unbeaten run — and have conceded just four goals during that time, keeping six clean sheets along the way. However, we’re here for the fun stuff, aren’t we?

The Red Devils’ unbeaten streak in all competitions now spans 16 games. During that time, they’ve managed to get on the scoresheet in 15 matches, only failing to do so in a 0-0 draw against Wolves in February.

Since that stalemate, Solskjaer’s side have netted in 13 consecutive games while they’ve also averaged 2.8 goals per game across all competitions during the five matches they’ve played following the return of English football.

10. High five

United have found it tough relative to their lofty ambitions since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 but on Saturday, Solskjaer will have been proud to see his side roll back the years as if the Scot were still in the dugout.

The Red Devils’ 5-2 thrashing of Bournemouth was the first time United have scored five goals at Old Trafford since December 2011 when they strolled to a 5-0 win against Wigan Athletic.

The last time they scored more than five at home was in their famous 8-2 humiliation of Arsenal four months prior.

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