It’s set to be another rebuild at Manchester United this summer. By all accounts, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is targetting young British talent.
Having already bought Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, Newcastle United’s Sean Longstaff has been heavily-linked to bulk up their midfield, with numbers light in that department. Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera have left, while Paul Pogba’s future is uncertain.
Longstaff would be Newcastle’s first homegrown player to leave for a lucrative fee since Andy Carroll went to Liverpool in 2011. But is he good enough for Manchester United? Here’s how his stats compared to their central midfielders last season – Herrera, Pogba and Fred.
In terms of direct contributions and end product, Pogba stands well above the rest – as you might expect from the club’s all-time record signing.
Last season, the Frenchman contributed 13 goals and nine assists in the Premier League from United’s midfield. Although it should be noted that seven, more than half, of those goals were penalties. He averaged a goal every 231 minutes, a non-penalty goal every 502 minutes, and an assist every 334 minutes.
Elsewhere at Old Trafford, Fred scored one goal and provided one assist from 1045 Premier League minutes in his debut campaign. Herrera, now at PSG, scored two goals (one every 702 minutes) and contributed three assists (one every 348 minutes).
Longstaff scored one goal and didn’t provide any assists in the league for Newcastle, but his opportunities were limited. He broke into the team in January and suffered a season-ending injury in early March, playing 688 minutes in total – yet made enough of an impact in that short time to get noticed.
While Longstaff’s direct contributions were low, his general attacking contributions look a little better. He averaged 0.9 shots per match, as well as 0.6 key passes (the last pass before a team-mate shoots), completing 0.6 dribbles and getting fouled 0.9 times.
Pogba, again, is livelier in the final third: he averaged three shots per game, 1.6 key passes, 1.7 dribbles, winning two fouls per game.
Both Fred and Herrera are more similar to Longstaff in that regard: Herrera averaged one shot, 0.7 key passes, 0.5 dribbles and 0.9 fouls won, while Fred averages one shot, 0.7 key passes, 0.6 dribbles and 1.1 fouls won.
The attacking stats clearly show that while nominally playing in the centre of midfield, Pogba is a much more attack-minded player that makes a difference in the final third. United would have their work cut out to replace the World Cup winner in that regard.
A different type of player, Longstaff wouldn’t be expected to compete in final-third contributions, but rather replace Herrera and compete with Fred. This is also shown in stark detail by the defensive stats.
The most noticeable thing about the Newcastle man last season was his work rate and engine. This is something Solskjaer has clearly earmarked as an area for improvement, as Manchester United were collectively third-bottom in the distance covered table for the 2018-19 season.
Longstaff averaged 10.23km covered per match last season – not too far behind the gold standard in that area, N’Golo Kante (10.94km). He’s also ahead of Pogba (9.93km per match) and considerably ahead of Herrera (8.3km) and Fred (7.99km).
He also contributed 1.9 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per match, ahead of Fred (1.7 tackles, 0.9 interceptions) and Pogba (1.3 tackles, 0.5 interceptions) but behind Herrera (2.5 tackles, 1.7 interceptions).