Manchester United have already conceded 23 goals this season. This is one more than they conceded in the entire 2007/2008 season. Although there are obviously many contributing factors to this – the absence of Nemanja Vidic and perhaps the higher average number of goals scored per match in the EPL this season (2.81 goals) compared to the 2007/2008 season (2.64 goals), to name a few – the importance of having a stable first-choice goalkeeper should not be underestimated. Ferguson cited “consistency” as the reason behind his decision to hand Anders Lindegaard four successive starts and claimed he was “going along with Anders at the moment”, only to select David De Gea for the following match at Manchester City. Mind games or not, there is certainly a lack of consistency in the United back five this season and it is questionable how long the likes of Rooney and RVP can keep coming to the rescue. Should the law of averages prevail, United are set concede 54 goals this season based on their performance so far in the EPL. And I thought titles were decided by grinding out 1-0 victories? To put this all into perspective, the highest number of goals conceded by EPL champions is 45, which was set by United in the 1999/2000 season, 9 goals less than what United are expected to concede based on their performance so far. United being heavily linked with Asmir Begovic, therefore comes as no surprise.
However, with a 6-point lead at the top and their tendency to improve after Christmas, there is certainly no need to push the panic button. The return of Nemanja Vidic against Sunderland this weekend can leave United fans with some optimism that consistency is just around the corner for the United back five. But if Ferguson is going to pick his number one goalkeeper anytime soon, who should it be? Breaking the British record transfer fee for a goalkeeper at £18 million and aged just 22, it is obviously hoped that David De Gea will be the long-term replacement to Edwin Van Der Saar. Lindegaard however, has been vocal about his desire to be the number one at Manchester United. A stats comparison is shown below.
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There is little between the goalkeepers in terms of clean sheets and goals conceded, with Lindegaard conceding one less goal (11)
and keeping one more clean sheet (2) than De Gea. However, De Gea has made a save every 65.45 minutes, compared to every 102.86 minutes in the case of Lindegaard. This could be due to the calibre of games that De Gea has been trusted for this season. Ferguson has opted for De Gea in all three of the EPL clashes with the so-called “top-four” sides this season (Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea). These are games in which there is an expectation for the opposing sides to be more adventurous in the final third, resulting in the goalkeeper having to make more saves. De Gea has been criticised for his slight build and inability to cope with crosses. This is shown with De Gea missing 2 crosses this season.
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With De Gea praised for his distribution, it could come as a surprise that Lindegaard (71.15) has a higher pass completion rate than De Gea (64.2%) this season. However, looking more closely at the data, we can see that De Gea has attempted 15 more final third passes and has a final third pass completion rate of 22%, compared to 0% in the case of Lindegaard.
With a 6-point gap at the top of the EPL, United hardly need to push the panic button. However, the goalkeeping situation and their defensive frailties will certainly give their title rivals hope of clawing back the deficit. With Ferguson tending to trust De Gea over Lindegaard for clashes with the so-called “top-four”, and the return of Nemanja Vidic, perhaps it is time to give the United back line that “consistency”, and give the most expensive goalkeeper in Britain a run in the first-team? Or will Begovic – 25 – be the answer?
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.