Man U should go Young

Ashley Young's presence makes Manchester United a more dynamic attacking team

Originally Published: October 14, 2011
By Albert Larcada | ESPN Insider
Ashley YoungMatthew Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesAshley Young makes the Manchester United attack much more dangerous when he's on the field.

Two of England's storied clubs match up Saturday (7:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2) as Manchester United makes the 30-mile drive from Old Trafford to Anfield to take on Liverpool. United and Liverpool have more domestic and European titles than any other English clubs and the home team has won the previous five matches in this rivalry, including United's ouster of the Reds in last year's FA Cup. United's last win at Anfield was in December 2007.

As usual, there is new blood in this rivalry, as Stewart Downing, Luis Enrique and Jordan Henderson will likely make their North West derby debuts for Liverpool. Downing and Enrique in particular have been great additions for the Reds, combining to create 14 of Liverpool's 34 goal-scoring chances this season.

United added key pieces as well in left winger Ashley Young and goalkeeper David De Gea. Young's importance to United's early season success cannot be understated. The winger leads his team in assists (five) and chances created (14), while creating loads of space for his teammates with his left-side runs.

So far this season, Young has been on the pitch for a little over 550 minutes in EPL and Champions League play and off the pitch for a little less than 250 minutes. While he's on the pitch, United has a diversified attack with Young on the left flank, Nani on the right and Rooney generally paired with another striker as center forwards. With Young off, however, United becomes quite one-sided and predictable, with a large percentage of its attack coming from the right side of the pitch.

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.