Stats: United target de Jong compares well to Matic, Lucas, Flamini

Manchester United reportedly keen on Nigel de Jong, of AC Milan, but how does the combative midfielder compare to Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal stars?

When it comes to footballing traits, such as dirtiness, Nigel de Jong is often found in the same company as Kevin Muscat, Luis Suarez, Roy Keane, Marco Materazzi and his compatriot Mark van Bommel.

The combative 29-year-old injured Stuart Holden for two seasons, muay-thai kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest, left Hatem Ben Arfa nursing a double fracture of his left tibia and fibula - yet has only once been issued a red card, for a brace of yellows whilst representing Hamburg in a UEFA Cup match over eight years ago.

So what, exactly, makes him a mandatory purchase for a Manchester United side looking to return to the pinnacle of Premier League achievement?

Manchester Evening News columnist Peter Spencer wrote earlier in the week that the Dutchman "would bring a ball-winning snarl back to the Reds midfield not seen since the depature of Roy Keane in 2005."

However, to pidgeon-hole de Jong as a mere 'Rasenmaher' (lawnmower), or 'Terrier', is to deny him the tag of a more well-rounded midfielder, rather than a player whose modus operandi is to mow down anybody who plays atop of his lawn.

  NationTouch /AppPass /AppPass AccTackle /AppIntercept /AppClear /AppFoul /AppAppMin
de Jong Netherlands 43.33 33.00 80.81 3.33 2.33 1.33 2.67 3 270

De Jong has been an ever-present in this summer's World Cup tournament under incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal's Netherlands side, a team who have stormed to the Group B's crown thanks to a hat-trick of victories over Chile, Spain and Australia.

While he receives a similar amount of touches on the football in Brazil as he did during his last season with Manchester City (on a per game average), he is a slightly different player.

For van Gaal, he is far more prolific in the tackle (3.3 per game to 1.7), his positioning is more intuitive due to his increased interceptions but he is also fouling far more frequently - perhaps a byproduct of being closer to the opposition in order to dispossess them of the football through a tackle attempt.

At City, though, he demonstrated that he was not just about retrieving the ball even if it meant imitating Artem Levin or Badr Hari. He could also retain possession and appreciated the precision of a pass (92% success rate from 42 pass attempts per game, on average).

  ClubTouch /AppPass /AppPass AccTackle /AppIntercept /AppClear /AppFouls /AppAppMin
de Jong City 48.38 42.67 92.30 1.71 1.76 0.62 0.57 21 1,067

When studying de Jong's statistics from the past season in Serie A, it is clear that his passing rate is comparable to his final year in England, rather than the three games of the World Cup (Spain, Chile and Australia), lending credence to the theory that his passing performance in Brazil is a mere anomaly.

Indeed, the Dutchman even measures up favourably to Premier League athletes who fulfil similar roles for rival clubs such as Lucas Leiva at Liverpool, Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal and Nemanja Matic of Chelsea.

Even though he is touted as a dirty player, both Matic and Lucas give away fouls more often than he did last season, his passing rate is fractionally inferior to Flamini's (though he attempts 17 more passes for each appearance) and his defensive contributions are similar - in total - to the Blues destroyer.

  ClubPass /AppPass AccTackle /AppIntercept /AppClear /AppFouls /AppAppMin
de Jong AC Milan 58.4 91.4% 2.2 2.8 1.7 1.4 33 2,796
Matic Chelsea 56.0 84.8% 3.3 1.8 3.6 1.7 17 1,364
Leiva Liverpool 52.7 90.8% 3.3 1.9 2.0 1.7 27 1,872
Flamini Arsenal 41.7 91.5% 1.4 1.4 1.9 0.9 27 1,604

While United are set to announce a mega money deal for Ander Herrera, a player who slipped through their grasp last season, de Jong is arguably the target who could most transform the club's fortunes due to a: his ability to protect a bank of defenders and b: his nous for passing and possession retention.

The fact that he could be acquired for a bargain £6 million only sweetens the deal…

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