Pre-season projection preview – Manchester United

To enhance my 2016/17 Premier League projection I’m reviewing factors that may impact each team’s strength compared with last season, as explained here. Next up Manchester United.

Last Season

A dull Premier League campaign cost Van Gaal his job – despite winning the FA Cup. Although defensively dominant, only 6 teams registered fewer shots on target – not the hallmark of prospective champions.  Shot conversion and save % were also high.

Player Turnover

To illustrate the relative strengths of key players joining and leaving, the numbers below compare defensive, passing and attacking strength against the average premier league player in 2015/16 (0% means at the same level as the average premier league player, greater than 0% is better and less than 0% is worse). Defensive assessment is the sum of defensive actions (tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks). Passing is number of completed passes, and attacking strength is goals plus assists (all measured per match). This isn’t a robust statistical analysis, and can be skewed due to acquisition from a weaker league or lack of minutes played – but the purpose is to simply indicate the comparative strength of incoming and outgoing players.

Man U


No significant first team departures. The 3 major signings so far look excellent. Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan should really boost attacking strength. Ibrahimovic is a European superstar signing – regularly posting exceptional numbers – delivering 38 goals and 13 assists in 29 appearances for PSG last season. Possible question marks could be whether he can replicate this against stronger Premier League opposition and whether at 34 (well past the prime age for a forward) his goal potency will start to wane. But his numbers speak for themselves.

At the time of writing there’s no confirmation of the Pogba transfer.

European Competition

Yes – Europa League. Champions League and Europa League last season.


Yes! Jose Mourinho has an awesome record, especially in his first couple of years at a club – and the likelihood is that he’ll return United to winning ways. But – he presided over Chelsea’s extraordinary demise last season – and when a group of players’ form collapses so spectacularly the manager must take some culpability. A question mark remains.

Overall assessment

Significantly Stonger – Superstar signings and superstar manager (should) combine to make United one of the top teams again.


Update 08/08/2016

Paul Pogba’s signing further strengthens United compared with last season


Last year’s numbers reveal Pogba as close to a complete payer. Man U’s acquisitions appear to have bolstered all areas of the team, to the extent that I have them as the team with the biggest close season improvement.

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