Opta analysis: Which United defenders are most at risk of being shipped out this summer

With a summer of improvement promised at Old Trafford, we take a look at which defenders have under performed and may be in danger of being sold.

At the time of writing, United have lost 11 Premier League games of the 34 they have played this season. It doesn't take a doctorate in mathematics to realise that that is an abysmal record of pretty much 1 loss every 3 games played. This is a crazy figure considering this is a side that won the league last year, and is the club's most losses in one league campaign since the 1990.

However, despite their league title last year, the warning signs were already there in United's rickety defence. The Old Trafford club shared the second worst defensive record of the top seven sides, conceding 43 goals. Under the much more defensive mined management of Moyes, the Red Devils have actually conceded 3 goals less than that ahead of the visit of Norwich. The fact those goals have seen them lose matches shows how vulnerable the defence, with its ageing club legends, really is.

Below we will be analysing the stats of the club's defenders, with nearly every one's position under threat approaching a summer of serious evaluation. Of the eight first teamers, we'll try and propose the four that have disappointed the most this season. 

  Goals ConcededError Lead To ShotError Lead To GoalWon TackleWon Tackle / appsChallenge Lost / appsAppsMins
Patrice Evra 34 1 0 49 1.63 0.93 30 2,614
Phil Jones 26 0 0 41 1.78 0.78 23 1,972
Chris Smalling 23 1 1 28 1.22 0.13 23 1,758
Nemanja Vidic 22 1 1 20 0.95 0.29 21 1,744
Jonny Evans 20 0 2 17 1.00 0.18 17 1,377
Rafael 19 0 0 37 1.95 0.84 19 1,418
Rio Ferdinand 13 1 0 7 0.64 0.36 11 858
Alexander Büttner 6 0 1 12 1.71 0.43 7 407

The stats above show that only five players have made mistakes leading to goals this year, with Jonny Evans the most culpable having 2 mistakes to his name in 17 games. Both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have less than 1 tackle an appearance for United, with Evans also poor in this category. Ferdinand and Vidic are also weaker than Smalling and Evans when it comes to challenging for the ball. Interestingly, Buttner has better rates of tackling and challenging players than Patrice Evra, though he has made a mistake leading to a goal in his 7 appearances. 

  Aerial LostAerial Lost / appsDuel LostDuel Lost / appsInterception Won / appsFouls / appsAccurate Pass / apps
Patrice Evra 55 1.83 148 4.93 1.60 1.07 31.10
Nemanja Vidic 39 1.86 63 3.00 1.76 1.14 34.86
Phil Jones 38 1.65 92 4.00 2.17 1.09 35.43
Chris Smalling 28 1.22 54 2.35 0.91 0.74 30.96
Rafael 19 1.00 85 4.47 1.84 1.00 27.63
Jonny Evans 16 0.94 21 1.24 1.47 0.06 41.35
Rio Ferdinand 11 1.00 18 1.64 1.45 0 37.00
Alexander Büttner 7 1.00 25 3.57 1.00 0.86 24.14

When it comes to aerial duals, United's Serbian captain Vidic has surprisingly had issues this year, with a higher rate of losses in the air than any other defender. Phil Jones has also struggled, despite a spell in midfield where he would be up against smaller players. Ferdinand and Evans are the strongest in the air, closely followed by Chris Smalling. Evra loses out to Buttner in this area, as he does when it comes to duels with players, while Vidic, Jones and Rafael have also come up short against other players. The strongest fullback when it comes to interceptions has been Rafael, with Phil Jones and Vidic also impressing here in central positions. Looking at the accuracy of passing, Jonny Evans and Ferdinand stick out for the right reasons, while Smalling, Rafael and Buttner all disappoint.

Considering the stats, Vidic, who is already on his way out having agreed to move to Inter, has been one of the worst central defenders, coming bottom when it comes to aerial duals and clashing with other players. He has also committed more fouls than the others, won less tackles and has lower passing accuracy than some.

Left back is a position of some concern, with both Patrice Evra and Alex Buttner having issues in several categories here. With rumoured interest in Southampton's Luke Shaw persisting, now might be the time to discard both of the men that have operated there in this season's campaign. 

The final defender to cut from the squad is really a lucky dip between Ferdinand, Smalling and Evans, with all having had their problems this year. Considering Ferdinand's age, it would probably make sense to let the former West Ham man go, and hope the other two can improve. 

These departures would leave room for 4 new defenders to come in, with a top class central defender and left back the priority. Then, cover at left back, as well as someone to challenge Rafael on the right should also be considered.

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