Football News

Manchester United’s midfield problem summed up in one worrying stat

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 15:00, 23 August 2023

Manchester United head into matchday three looking to start firing on all cylinders after making an indifferent start.

Erik ten Hag’s men began with a 1-0 home win over Wolves but were fortunate not to go behind as the visitors were guilty of missing several gilt-edged chances. In fact, United faced 23 shots against Gary O’Neil’s side. Only once in 2022/23 did the opponents manage more efforts on goal – against Arsenal, who managed 25.


Tottenham were more clinical, inflicting a 2-0 defeat over the record 20-time English champions.

United spent big in the summer but have several issues that still need resolving, notably competition in midfield. The Red Devils prised Mason Mount away from boyhood club Chelsea and the England international has played alongside Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes in the heart of United’s team.

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The trio are yet to gel, showing signs of imbalance in their aforementioned opening Premier League games. One worrying statistic for Ten Hag is the fact Fernandes has been dribbled past by an opponent more often than any other player in England’s top division.

Casemiro is joint-second on six. In total, 10 players have been dribbled past five or more times so far this season and there are three United players on that list. Lisandro Martínez is the other United player, suggesting even Ten Hag’s last line of defence is proving too easy to bypass. Meanwhile, Mount has been dribbled past four times.

As a team, United have been dribbled past at least nine more times than any other side (36). However, this can be explained in part by the fact that Wolves have completed the most take-ons this season (46), at least 16 more than any other side. Then again, the fact that Spurs occupy second place suggests that opposition teams are finding it too easy to get past United players.

Up next for United is the visit of Nottingham Forest, who began with a narrow defeat at Arsenal before a 2-1 win over newly-promoted Sheffield United, expect the likes of Morgan Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson to fancy their chances at running through United’s centre. While a cameo from ex-player and former academy graduate Anthony Elanga could prove decisive. If something isn’t fixed then United’s 30-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford will come under threat.