Man United are on top of the Premier League in January for the first time since 2013. Now, the majority question if Solskjaer’s squad has all it takes to follow its predecessors’ footsteps.
The last time United topped the Premier League table in January was in 2013 under Sir Alex Ferguson. During this season, the club had the likes of Ferdinand and Vidic at the back, Van Persie scoring at will, and De Gea creating a name for himself. Under Ferguson’s management, United became England’s most successful club winning 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles.
However, gone are the days of the Red Devils’ dominance. United has failed to pick up the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. David Moyes, Louis Van Gal, and Jose Mourinho have all failed to walk in the steps left by the legendary Scottish manager.
Nonetheless, current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be the one to restore glory at Old Trafford. Currently, the club is leading in the Premier League in January for the first time in eight years. The side is sitting three points above the reigning champions, Liverpool.
With the build-up showdown at Anfield on Sunday, how does Solskjaer’s side compare to Fergusons’?
2013 and the Current United Squad comparison
The attacking talent at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal in 2013 was way ahead of today’s team. The capability to call upon Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie-two world-class stars placed them over and above the current options.
However, the current United has potential in attack although it’s not quite fully realized yet. Today, they have Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Scot McTominay, Nemanja Matic, and Donny van de Beek.
With that said, Ferdinand and Matic at the back with a young Phil Jones and Jonny Evans backing up, as well as Patrice Evra at full-back, means 2013 was a much more rounded unit than the current team.
However, that’s not to say the current team cannot lift the Premier League title this season. It’s more of they still have a way to go in order to match the 2013 United caliber.
David De Gea
De Gea overcame all earlier doubts and established himself as one of the world’s best goalkeepers during the title-winning season. Some times, he single-handedly won games for United. For this, he was recognized as an incredible shot-stopper with the ability to block out opposition shots with his feet.
Although De Gea is still a member of the current United squad, his dip in form demonstrates the defensive instability of Solskjaer’s side.
The shot-stopper conceded on average 0.9 goals per game in the 2012/13 season. Whereas in the 2020/21 season, the Spaniard has conceded on average 1.4 goals.
Rafael Da Silva & Aaron Wan Bissaka
Da Silva signed for United in the 2008 summer and took moments to show his worth to the United faithful. During his debut season, the Brazilian right-back was shortlisted for the PFA young player of the year. He had already demonstrated his speed and strength going forward while offering reliability at the back.
Da Silva displayed energy and tenacity down the flanks. But, Aaron Wan Bissaka has offered more to the current United side than his 2013 counterpart.
Wan Bissaka completes on average 0.8 successful dribbles per 90 minutes while Da Silva offered 0.7 successful dribbles at the same time. However, Da Silva trumps Wan Bissaka in pass accuracy. The 2013 player completed 84.5% of his passes per game while Bissaka completes 82.5%.
Rio-Ferdinand & Harry Maguire
Flowing in Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes’s steps, Ferdinand enjoyed a prolonged career at United. Having overcome a series of injuries in his earlier days, the latter maintained a consistent brilliance at the heart of the defense.
Ferdinand’s positioning was extraordinary and his ability on the ball proved to be second to none.
However, when compared to Harry Maguire, the first-choice center-back, there’s little to differentiate from a statistical view. The two have a similar style, with their importance of blocking being central to their respective teams.
Ferdinand made 0.7 average blocks per 90 minutes while Maguire makes 0.6 blocks under the same time. However, when in form, Maguire is capable to match Ferdinand’s ability to bring the ball out of the back and create overloads in midfield with a dynamic, unique ball carry.
Antonio Valencia & Victor Lindelof
Valencia’s first season in the famous Manchester United No.7 shirt did not go as everyone had expected. Valencia combined power, pace, and stuttering dribble to elude defenders and send crosses in from near the sideline.
Typically, he was an accurate crosser of the ball and not one of United’s shining stars in their title-winning season. With Lindelof, he at some point commanded United’s defense making a total of 30 appearances. However,
it was his ability to finish the season without making any errors that lead to goals that impressed fans and pundits across the country.
Lindelof also registered a tackle success rate of 68 percent across the campaign and picked up just one yellow card while being at the heart of United’s defense.
Patrice Evra & Luke Shaw
Evra possessed both pace and power. This is a trait he shares with Luke Shaw although the latter is yet to reach the peak of his physical form. Drawing from statistics, there is a stylistic similarity between the pair although Evra has the edge over the current United’s left-back.
Evra was dispossessed less often than Shaw has been this season – 0.8 compared to Shaw’s 1.6 times per game. A statistic that seems counter-intuitive given the Frenchman was continually criticized at Old Trafford for not being disciplined enough in possession.
Evra was also more of a threat going forwards, providing his team with an average of 1.3 key passes per game – compared to Shaw’s current 1.