Nikola Milenkovic Manchester United Tactical analysis statistics

Khabib Numagomedov’s testosterone-fuelled defeat of motormouth Conor McGregor grabbed sporting headlines this weekend, but not quite like Jose Mourinho. Somehow, despite his Manchester United players overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win late on against Newcastle, all talk was about one man. It wasn’t him choking the opposition into submission, nor did he deliver the knockout blow. As he strolled arrogantly down the touchline, he had ensured the show once again revolved around him.

Jose Mourinho comments on Eric Bailly, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford

In the Daily Telegraph, Luke Edwards picked up on many of Mourinho’s quirks. Dragging Eric Bailly off after just 19 minutes was controversial, especially when it was largely Ashley Young’s errors which had lead to Newcastle’s two goals. The Portuguese’s comments afterwards about two young players were also symptomatic of his awkward relationships.

“Mourinho’s management style has always been abrasive, but was there really any need to talk about young players such as Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay lacking the courage to play under pressure?” wrote Edwards.
“Did Eric Bailly deserve to be hauled off after 19 minutes? Punished for two mistakes by his captain, Ashley Young, who was turned and twisted by Kenedy for Newcastle’s first goal and sent to the shops by Yoshinori Muto, before he smashed in the second.
“What happened in the second half was exhilarating, thrilling and, yes, it did feel special. From the moment Juan Mata curled in a free-kick with 20 minutes remaining, United looked like they would score every time they attacked.”

Scott McTominay & Marcus Rashford’s courage

Defining courage in statistical terms is difficult, but there are indicators we can use. For example, in McTominay’s case, his decisiveness in tackling and interceptions show us how effective he is in committing to an admittedly unorthodox role. He isn’t a centre back by trade but that’s where he played his only full 90 minutes this season. Many felt that he was thrown under the bus with that bizarre selection in the 3-1 defeat to West Ham.

Nevertheless, he hasn’t made any clearances in his 155 minutes, 20 of which came in two brief substitute appearances. McTominay has only made one tackle on average per 90 minutes. In fact, he has attempted fewer tackles than 11 teammates; if we discount attacking players, only Bailly has attempted fewer tackles on average.

Interpretations of courage

Courage, of course, comes in many different forms. Only Lukaku, Rashford, Herrera and Bially have attempted fewer passes per 90 minutes than McTominay’s 22.5. Martial, Rashford and Fellaini – all of whom carry less passing responsibility – are the only teammates to have a lower average accurate long pass figure than the young Scot’s 0.8. Twelve players have a higher average inaccurate long passes per 90 minutes than his 1.0. The theory behind playing him in defence was to provide a passer in the back three. Although it is positive to see fewer errors in this category, Mourinho’s courage barb could be seen as a desire to see McTominay attempt more ambitious long passes in the first place.

Rashford’s main threat is with the ball at his feet. He has attempted 3.6 dribbles per 90 minutes, more than anyone bar Anthony Martial, but of those 2.8 are unsuccessful. This suggests that he is attempting to make use of his skills, and not hiding from his responsibility as Mourinho possibly suggests. He only attempts 1.6 shots per 90 minutes, a contributory factor to his low goals tally of one in five total appearances.

Bailly’s defensive contributions

Eric Bailly has suffered considerable injury problems since arriving in Manchester, but many regard him as a long-term defensive fixture. His WhoScored defensive statistics only place him tenth in the Manchester United team so far this season, however. Eight more players have registered more tackles per 90 minutes than Bailly’s one, while only four outfield players – Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford – have lower average interceptions than Bailly’s 0.2.

One should first place these figures in the context of his total time on the pitch. The Ivorian has managed just 201 minutes in the league due to injury and Mourinho’s lack of faith. However, his usual trademark qualities of intelligence and anticipation have been less evident so far this season. His 2.2 clearances per 90 minutes is ninth out of United’s squad. Chris Smalling and Lindelof have both registered more blocks than Bailly’s 0.2.


Jose Mourinho just couldn’t accept that his players had delivered a performance, albeit late in the day. His decision to take off Bailly appears to be borne out of frustration at below-par performances. The amount of playing time afforded to his player, however, must be part of this. With McTominay and Rashford, his criticisms won’t realistically help matters, even if one considers them to hold some weight. The statistics offer some credence to his views, but require context for proper consideration.