Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba looks to be intent on leaving Old Trafford and the club are said to be preparing for the Frenchman’s departure.
If the playmaker does leave, which of United’s targets would be best suited to replace him?
We take a deep dive into the numbers:
Fernandes had an outstanding season for Sporting. His average assist per 90 minutes was 0.21, compared to Pogba’s 0.19, according to Wyscout.
In terms of key passes per 90, the Portuguese international was actually superior to the United star, playing on average 0.52 key passes per game to Pogba’s 0.3. He also averaged more highly on the amount of final third passes per 90 (11.52 to Pogba’s 9.91).
Fernandes generally plays at least one more long ball per game than the United midfielder and also has a 10% lower accuracy in his forward passing. It means the Sporting midfielder is more prone to playing Hollywood balls.
Another downside is that although he did score 32 goals in all competitions, his xG (expected goals) was just 18. That means he scored a staggering 14 more goals than he would have usually been expected to.
It’s an outlier which generally won’t be repeated in successive seasons. If he performs to the same level next season, he will likely score closer to 20. That is if he stays in Portugal, and that number may come down further still playing in the Premier League.
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The Serbian didn’t have the best of seasons in terms of actual numbers. He scored just seven goals and provided only three assists, compared to Pogba’s 17 goals and 11 assists.
However, there are some notable areas where Milinkovic-Savic is superior to the France international. He averages 0.67 key passes per game, which is over double the United midfielder’s average.
The 24-year-old forward passing accuracy is almost identical while he is superior in aerial duels and recovering the ball. There is no doubt, though, that the Serbian is less creative, his expected assists was just 4.99 compared to Pogba’s 7.77 last campaign.
The Spaniard plays in a more withdrawn role than the other players on this list so it is slightly unfair to compare them, but he would be someone who could improve on Pogba’s work rate in midfield.
Saul intercepts on average three more balls per game than either Pogba, Milinkovic-Savic or Fernandes, and averages more ball recoveries per 90 (6.94) than the rest.
His eight goals last season is also better than Milinkovic-Savic despite playing slightly deeper than the Serbian, but it must be said the Spaniard is not the most creative of players.
Despite making the same number of key passes per match as Pogba (0.3), he provided just one assist last season, and that wasn’t an outlier either. His expected assist number was just 2.53.
In summary, then, the most similar player to Pogba would likely be Fernandes. The question is, does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer want someone similar to to the Frenchman in that midfield role or someone who is a bit more disciplined? If so, Saul may well be a better fit.