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It’s been a long, long time since we’ve played at Old Trafford and I’ve thought, we can actually get a positive result. In fact, scrap that, I don’t think we’ve ever played at the so-called ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and I’ve thought that. Not in my lifetime anyway. When we got promoted to the Premier League back in 2003, we played United on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and it was one of the most infuriating games I’ve watched. Henri Camara had countless chances. We should have beaten them, there are no two ways about it. Inevitably, United won 1-0. It was also the first time a certain Cristiano Ronaldo started a league game in England.
Fast forward to 2009 and we, once again, made the trip to Manchester in midweek. We’d just picked up a huge three points at White Hart Lane and there was a certain buoyancy among the travelling horde of gold and black. So, what did Mick McCarthy go and do? That’s right, he changed the majority if not all of our starting XI as he decided to prioritise the game against Burnley a few days later. Thankfully for Mick, we beat Burnley otherwise all hell would have broken loose.
How Times Change
Our most recent outing to Old Trafford was in 2011. Our side that day was: Hennessey, Zubar, Berra, Johnson, Ward, Edwards, O’Hara, Henry, Jarvis, Fletcher, Doyle. How on earth we managed to score (we lost 4-1) with that team is a miracle in itself. For what it’s worth, United had De Gea, Smalling, Jones and Valencia, who are still in around their starting eleven today. They are going to be in for one helluva shock when they see how much has changed.
Speaking of their side, before I started writing this I had a couple of errands to run and during that time as opposed to the normal vacant state of mind that I possess, I pondered the question, how much better than us, are they? I’m not going to go through all eleven players, we’ll focus on arguably the two most important areas on the pitch, in goal and up front. It’s gonna get tasty.
Rui vs De Gea
Right, what you need to know before we begin analysing the stats is that the stars mean you win. So, 3-1 to Rui. Of course, you can not ignore the fact that Rui was playing in the Portuguese Premier League and De Gea in the English Premier League. Nonetheless, that will be the case with both the comparisons. Just a bit of fun though, right? Distribution accuracy isn’t something that will particularly change from league to league, so for Rui to have a 13% margin on David, it’s started well. Blinding start for our lad.
Again, clean sheets is won by Rui. Naturally, this one is going to be affected by the standard you play at so while it has to be taken with a pinch of salt, we will still take the win. The penultimate one we are looking at is saves per ninety minutes. De Gea’s solitary win and one you would expect, as well. Again, filtering in the quality of the league, De Gea will face more shots, thus making more saves.
We finish with catches. I’m not too sure how Rui wins this as much like saves, you’d think De Gea would have more to catch than his Portuguese opponent. Evidently not – 0.56 is the difference. Just in case you’re wondering, much like I was, Rui has more punches as well, so it’s nothing to do with the style of the keeper.
In summary, Rui is better than De Gea. I say that slightly tongue in cheek, however, part of me does believe it. He’s not been Portugal’s number one for several years for no reason. Now, we move on to the opposite end of the pitch.
Raul vs Romelu
No, I don’t have a clue why Lukaku doesn’t have a picture. Jimenez got nowhere near the amount of game time that Lukaku did last season, so you may think that the stats are slightly skewed. If that is the case, I’m sorry but you can go somewhere else for your preview. All of the above stats are per ninety minutes from both of their domestic campaigns.
Shooting accuracy is first up and Lukaku takes it comfortably by 6%. That surprises me ever so slightly as from his first few games I get the impression that Raul is pretty on the ball. Bar that terrible miss last week against Burnley. And the one against West Ham. Hmm, maybe he’s not as good as I first anticipated. Moving swiftly on…
Goals. Raul wins. As a modern-day striker, scoring goals is not your only job, but Raul wins this by 0.2. Come on! In what is seemingly becoming a game of tennis, Lukaku takes the next one, assists. 0.07 isn’t the greatest of margins and when you consider the one underneath it, the difference may have had to do with Raul’s teammates, rather than himself.
The one I am referring to is chances created. Jimenez created nearly double the number of chances per ninety minutes last season yet the Belgian produced more assists which means one of two things. Either the chances that Jimenez are creating aren’t very good, OR Raul’s teammates can’t finish. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter.
Ok, Lukaku Is Better
Our fifth and final one is passing accuracy. Very important in Nuno’s side. The 65% on offer by Jimenez isn’t great in comparison to the likes of Neves and Moutinho who all sit in the mid to high 80s, you can imagine that will be much better come the end of the season. So yeah, Lukaku wins that one. Overall, Lukaku is better (shock) and I’m in agreement with the stats on this one as just is. That’s not to say that Jimenez won’t score the winner later today. Watch this space.
Something which I will bring to your attention as it’s only sort of been in the public eye is our interest in Marcus Rashford. In the summer, if certain people are to be believed, we tabled a £35,000,000 (or thereabouts) offer for Rashford. This hasn’t only come from one person so it’s got some credibility, it’s just a surprise that none of the tabloids have picked up on it. Mourinho wasn’t willing to let Rashford go without getting a replacement or two in and when his transfer dealings didn’t materialise, the move was off. It remains to be seen if Rashford would’ve even entertained the idea of a move to the Black Country, although it’s good to know the intent is there. Maybe we’ll go back in for him in January.
He would’ve been outstanding in our system, not sure who we would leave it out mind, maybe Jimenez? That’s a worry for another day and would be an immense problem to have.
Attack, Attack, Attack
What’s the biggest thing that jumps out to you from this image? Look at the position of Ashley Young (18) in comparison to Valencia (25). This is the average position of each United player from their 2-1 victory over Watford last weekend. Young’s tendency to play further up the pitch than Valencia could be our way in as Costa can get in behind him and do some real damage. You could say that Matic (31) has got his position covered, but the Serbian is suspended today and Fellaini (27) won’t be able to cover both full-backs.
Over the course of the game, we will have chances. Our starting lineup will probably be the same meaning that Traore’s shackles are kept on for another week and he’ll be let loose from the start against Leicester in the Carabao Cup during the week. If we are level around the sixty-minute mark and Young goes bombing forward, Traore is going to have a field day and the Mourinho meltdown which will undoubtedly follow will be marvellous. Will we see Cavaleiro today? Doubtful, nevertheless, I think he will return in the cup against Leicester. We can win today.
One More Thing
As you’ve probably picked up throughout this article, I’m firmly in the ‘we are going to get a result’ camp. We are over 5/1 to win. I’m not someone to tell you what to do with your money, but PUT IT ALL ON WOLVES. There, I’ve said it. Let’s do this.
Until the next time.