This season has not been one of much joy and happiness for Manchester United fans. Brief glimpses such as those following wins over rivals, such as the one this weekend against Manchester City, have been overshadowed by more underwhelming performances which leave the club within reach of fourth-place more or less solely due to the incompetence of others.
One of the few reasons to be cheerful has been the introduction and, wavering, good form of a crop of youngsters. In truth, these young devils are playing for the most part due to United’s own incompetence in managing and forming a properly strong squad, but the sight of players who will grow at the club is exciting nonetheless.
It remains to be seen, however, just how good these players are. In particular (as it’s generally attackers who are the most exciting), the four marauding musketeers of Memphis, Martial, Rashford, and Lingard. Each have had their memorable moments this season, but do they offer anything further?
Generally, shots taken or shot creation would be a first port of call for attacking players. Manchester United shoot so infrequently under Louis van Gaal, however, that this is a bit of a problem. If Martial et al have low shooting or chance creation numbers is this because of their quality or because of the team they are in?
United currently take an average of 11.2 shots per game, which is 14th in the league. They’re 6th in the league on points though, and 6th place in the shooting table is Everton on 13.8. In a very crude way you could estimate that United are taking about 80% as many shots as you’d expect from a team in their position (this is purely to estimate how much of a bump United’s forwards might get in another side).
Top performing players in these positions generally have at least 3-3.5 shots per 90 minutes and only Memphis approaches this. However, as we can see from his shots on target map and the percentage that are taken from inside the area, these may be more Coutinho/Andros Townsend-esque pot-shots than anything else.
Lingard has a similar percentage of his shots inside the box as Martial, probably coming from playing in a similar role, but shoots far less, almost half as much. He’s also not really making up any difference in chances created for team-mates, only creating 0.09 more per 90 minutes than Memphis in real terms (+0.1 with the artificially boosted figures).
Juan Mata, one of the other players to feature in the wide attacking midfield role a lot this season, shoots basically as much as Lingard, 1.94 times per 90 minutes on average, but creates nearly double the chances with 1.69 per90 against Lingard’s 0.87. It might also be worth noting that Mata’s likeability and unquantifiable hug-factor has not quite kept United fans from suggesting that the Spaniard has been disappointing at times this season.
Martial’s numbers probably put him as something of a hybrid between an attacker and attacking midfielder because of the mix of how he’s been used this season. Yet still he has stronger shot numbers than Rashford. This does not bode well for the teenager, and the fact that all three of his shots on target in the league have become goals probably inflates the quality he is perceived to have.
Even Martial with the boosted numbers doesn’t look a particularly attractive prospect. There is room to grow for each, especially in a side kinder to attackers than the current United iteration, but even with that in mind it seems unlikely that all four will make the grade.
Join Eastbridge Soccer Betting Broker today!