Manchester United are top of the Premier League at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s final year in charge.
Few would have predicted such a turn of events when United fell to a tame 1-0 loss against Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 1.
Since then, though, United have gone on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league that contained nine victories, including the 1-0 away win over Burnley on Tuesday.
As a result, they sit three points clear of Premier League champions Liverpool ahead of their huge trip to Anfield on Sunday.
We have used Opta data to look at who has performed best, both for United and across the league, during this resurgent period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
IMPRESSIVE ATTACKING STATS
United have conceded a respectable 11 goals in as many matches, but it is their attacking play which is really separating them from the pack.
They have scored 25 goals in those 11 games, five more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool are next with 20, though they have played one game fewer, followed by Leeds United and Leicester City (both 18).
United have racked up 122 attempts at goal, which is second-best in the league – only Leeds (132) rank higher.
And United’s efforts have been more accurate, as they have the most shots on target (72), well clear of Leeds and Liverpool (both 56).
1 – This is the first time Manchester United have ended the day top of the Premier League table, having played as many as 17 games, since the final day of their title-winning campaign in 2012-13 under Sir Alex Ferguson. Restored. pic.twitter.com/fHDP8FWTxY
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2021
BRUNO AND RASHFORD STAND OUT
It will surprise few to learn that Bruno Fernandes has been United’s best performer over the past 11 games, just as he has been since his debut a year ago.
He has scored eight goals for United in the 11-match period, with the next best contributors being the impressive Marcus Rashford (five) and new arrival Edinson Cavani (three).
Fernandes also comes out on top for assists with five. Rashford again follows closely with three, which is also the tally registered by Anthony Martial.
Once again Fernandes (27) and Rashford (24) both come out on top when it comes to shots, with Martial also generating a good number of attempts (22).
As you might expect, that trio subsequently fare best when it comes to attempts on target, with Fernandes (18) ahead of Rashford and Martial (both 14).
The Portugal international has 316 successful passes in the opposition half over those 11 games. Rashford (221) is second and a welcome sight for United is Paul Pogba (195) coming next in the list.
A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who asssisted the World Cup winner’s goal against Burnley.
Fernandes leads United for chances created over the 11 matches with 34. Improving full-back Luke Shaw is a surprise second with 17, followed by Martial and Rashford (12).
11 – Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 14 Premier League appearances (6 goals, 5 assists). Catalyst. pic.twitter.com/dw0dwjKhth
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2021
FERNANDES IN ELITE COMPANY
The eight goals scored by Fernandes since November 2 puts him two clear of the next best in the league, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (six).
Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (six) just edges him for assists and is the only man with a higher number across all Premier League teams during that span.
When the metrics are adjusted to calculate contributions per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, some other United players come to the fore
Fernandes and Cavani (0.79) fare best for United in a tie for fifth for goals per 90 minutes, with Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi, who has been on a hot streak, topping the list on 0.94.
Everton’s Lucas Digne is averaging one assist per 90 minutes over the period, though his sample size is a little smaller after missing time for injury.
De Bruyne averages 0.67 assists per 90 minutes, while United’s top player in the category is Cavani on 0.53, ahead of Fernandes on a still impressive 0.49.
That suggests Cavani, despite his relatively quiet return from suspension at Turf Moor, could have more to offer than just goals and an aerial threat if deployed regularly as a number nine.
When it comes to shots on target, Martial is in a tie for third in the Premier League with Fernandes (both 1.78 per 90).
The rampant El Ghazi (2.99) and resurgent Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette (2.04) top the charts during the timeframe.
Perhaps surprisingly it is Nemanja Matic who averages the most completed passes in the opposition half per game among United players (34.11).
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 13, 2021
Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones are ranking as the league’s best in that category since November 2 at 52.86 and 48.28 respectively.
With chances created, Fernandes (fourth, 3.36 per 90 minutes) and Shaw (eighth, 2.88) both come out well.
But it is reported United target Jack Grealish (4.22) who has been far and away the most creative player in the top flight over the period.
It is clear the form and fitness of Fernandes will continue to be imperative to United’s hopes of sustaining a serious title challenge.
But if Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Pogba and Shaw can build on their positive contributions during their surge to the top in support of Fernandes, the goals should be able to keep flowing.
If they do and a positive result at Anfield leads to a six-point advantage, perhaps fans can dare to dream.