Manchester United have had a problem at the spine of their team for quite some time. And now the stats are proving it too.
A lack of genuine investment in the defensive midfield area of the team has left United’s squad incredibly unbalanced and top-heavy.
And if there was any need for further proof that the problem will cost them from progressing to the next level, it is the stat of how often players are dribbled past.
Stats have revealed that Fred, United’s primary defensive midfielder, has been dribbled past more time than any of the other big six teams defensive midfielders have.
He has been dribbled past three times per 90 minutes so far this season, a quite shocking statistic considering he is meant to glue the team together.
? Times dribbled past per 90 of DMs of the Premier League's big-six this season:
Man Utd – Fred (3)
Arsenal – Thomas Partey (2.5)
Spurs – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (1.9)
Liverpool – Fabinho (1.7)
Chelsea – N'Golo Kante (1.1)
Man City – Rodri (0.6)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) October 4, 2021
Fred should not even be playing in this position for United. Bought for £47million (as per BBC Sport) Fred started out as an attacking midfielder but has since converted to a defensive one, where his many shortcomings in the position are obvious for all to see.
The genuine DM’s of Rodri and Fabinho at Man City and Liverpool, have been dribbled past less per 90 even when you combine their totals together.
In the list above the most similar player to Fred is Kante, in that both play more as box to box players rather than pure DM’s but both are supposedly tigerish ball winners. All that can be concluded in this comparison is that one deserves their reputation as one of the best ball-winners in world football, and the other shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting 11 for their club side.
United have invested heavily into their squad, including on attacking midfielders such as Donny van de Beek, who is being forced to play out of position when he does get a chance to play.
Attempting to retrofit players to a position to balance the team is far from a permanent solution, and one that cannot continue if the club wants to achieve genuine success.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to stop being stubborn by persisting with a player that doesn’t fit the needs of the team and instead identify a player who does and spend the big bucks on them.
And there are several candidates in the Premier League alone who would be ideal for the way United want to play.