Manchester United should employ a back three and not have Paul Pogba in the side against Chelsea today, according to statistics published in The Telegraph.
Reporter James Ducker has compared United’s results in big games when they have played with a back three and those when they have played with a back four. He found a big advantage in terms of results when the Reds have played with the extra centre-back.
With a back three, United have won 50% of their ‘big games’ (against top six sides and big European fixtures), as opposed to only 31% with a back four.
They have scored fewer goals per game (1.1 vs. 1.3) but this is far outweighed by the fewer average goals conceded when using a back three (1.1 vs 1.84).
Ducker then looked at how successful United have been in these big games when Paul Pogba has started versus when he hasn’t.
The Red Devils have won one, drawn two and lost five of the big games in which Pogba has played (win average of 12.5%) versus winning eight, drawing two and losing five of those without Pogba (win average of 53%).
When cross-referencing the two statistics, Ducker reveals that United have only won one game out of 23 when Pogba started and a back four was adopted – ironically the 4-0 home win against Chelsea last season.
‘Scott McTominay and Fred have invariably offered a doggedness and level of discipline that Pogba, certainly in the red of United, has seldom shown,’ Ducker argues.
‘Further forward, in the hole behind two split strikers, Bruno Fernandes not only has the vision and passing range to rival Pogba but he closes down space quicker, his shooting is better and he offers a level of leadership United have yet to see in their record signing.’
Whilst Ducker’s statistics do seem rather selective in terms of dates chosen and what he classifies as ‘big games’, there is certainly an interesting pattern demonstrated here that cannot be dismissed lightly.