While the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) struggles to make progress, there are a few shining stars coming through. Timothy Weah, whose father George shone in Serie A and Ligue Un, is bursting through at his father’s old club PSG. Weston McKennie has scored in the Champions League for Schalke. The brightest star however is without question Christian Pulisic, with the Borussia Dortmund star linked to Manchester United amongst others.
Pulisic is a traditional winger who likes to stay far out wide on the right flank. His direct running, intelligence on the ball and maturity make him an obviously appealing transfer target. In recent weeks his form has been criticised by some Bundesliga media and fans, making talk of an exit more likely. In this analysis we will use statistics to look at whether he would be a good fit for United.
Pulisic loves to run with the ball, and to be fair he is pretty successful at it. Wingers of his ilk will invariably rack up higher successful dribbles than successful ones, due to the volume of attempted take-ons. Alexis Sanchez, for example, has managed 1.3 successful dribbles to 1.9 unsuccessful ones per 90 minutes in the Premier League. Anthony Martial registers almost identical number. In fact, the only player to have registered more successful dribbles having attempted more than 1.0 per 90 minutes is Paul Pogba.
Pulisic however attempts more on average in all competitions. Not only that, but he is more successful too with 2.2 out of 4 attempts coming off. His number are higher in the Champions League, just as they are for Martial, which shows a different intent and type of opposition. In general though, Jose Mourinho is not fond of allowing complete license to his players. For Pulisic to fully explore his potential on the ball, United might not be the best fit.
The young American’s impact is found more in his natural talent than his end product. He only registers 0.8 key passes per 90 minutes, which ranks him behind all United’s current attacking players. The intensity of Dortmund’s play allows for ball recovery more aggressively than United’s passive style. In this sense, the key passes from Pulisic are less important as he is allowed to focus on his strengths.
He is not a direct threat on goal either, as he takes only 1.1 shots per 90 minutes. Again, this put him way down the list compared to his potential teammates. Only defensive midfielders and defenders register fewer in the current United setup. In one sense this isn’t a major issue, as his job is to provide. With Mourinho’s preference for playing just one striker up front, however, the wingers need to contribute to the penalty area threat more.
The fact that he loses possession almost five times per 90 minutes shouldn’t be a major concern though. For his type of player, this is very common for obvious reasons. His figure in this category is comparable with United’s creators, and is likely to be higher due to the faster pace of Dortmund.
The price tag of ₤60 million being mentioned is quite steep, even in today’s hyper-inflated market. Possibly through burnout, Pulisic’s performances have slightly dropped off this season, and he rarely lasts 90 minutes. More to the point though, his style is not best suited to the rigid system Mourinho plays.
Perhaps the nearest player in style and build to him is Anthony Martial. The Frenchman is enjoying arguably his strongest run of form at the club, topping the league scoring charts with six. He is comfortably ahead of Marcus Rashford in his manager’s estimations, but would the Portuguese accommodate two similar players? It seems unlikely.