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Great Britain

Maddison and Grealish would be £160m well spent by Man Utd as stats show duo are huge upgrade on current midfielders

MANCHESTER UNITED'S summer transfer business has one clear aim - sort out the muddle in the middle.

Conventional wisdom dictates that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs a striker to fill the Romelu Lukaku shaped hole at centre forward.

But United seem to think that there is a more pressing issue in midfield.

And that’s why they’re plotting a £160million double swoop for James Maddison and his old mucker Jack Grealish.

Are they right? Are Maddison and Grealish what they need? Are they better than what they already have?

We’ve taken a look at the data to find out.

First of all, let’s examine whether there is an issue with their forward line.

Having only netted 36 goals in total this season, United are a staggering 29 strikes behind the league's top-scorers Manchester City.

So it might seem United’s forwards have failed to deliver.

Certainly there’s an issue in terms of the team’s finishing. Solskjaer’s men are converting fewer than one in ten of their chances.

But it turns out that’s not down to the forwards. They’re doing a pretty good job of finding the net when chances come their way.

So the problems run deeper, or at least from a deeper position on the pitch.

And their midfield is exactly where they’re found wanting.

Comparing the combined outputs of Maddison and Grealish with those of United’s Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and even World Cup winner Paul Pogba this season - it’s easy to see why Ed Woodward’s preparing to stump up £160million.

Let’s look at finishing first.

The extra 13 goals Maddison and Grealish have scored would probably have United in the top four. But they do much more than just score goals for themselves.

Grealish and Maddison are also strong ball carriers in midfield, capable of running at defences at pace.

The ability to take players on means drawing them into fouls.

The duo win almost two-and-a-half times as many fouls as the United trio.

This matters, because in Harry Maguire, they have the third most prolific header of the ball among Premier League centre-halves, making United dangerous at set-plays.

But that’s not the only way Grealish and Maddison bring other players into the game.

Through open play they are unlocking defences with ease – certainly more so than United’s attack-minded midfielders.

In terms of creativity, they are head and shoulders above the men they’d be brought in to replace. And remember how good United’s forwards are at putting the ball away? More chances would probably mean more goals.

Added to all of this is that, although neither of them is a Wilfred Ndidi or an N’Golo Kanté – unlike those two, ball-winning isn’t their main job – Grealish and Maddison would even put in a better defensive shift than the United men.

Interceptions are important. Cut out a pass in the opposition’s defensive third and you can catch them when they’re in attack mode and out of defensive shape.

But this season both Lingard and Mata are in the bottom six among Premier League attacking midfielders for that.

So the Old Trafford hierarchy are right. The midfield is more of a pressing matter than the forward line. And with Maddison and Grealish they’d have two players more capable of pressing – and a whole lot else – than the players they currently have.

Man Utd plotting £160m transfer swoop for Grealish AND Maddison as Solskjaer hopes pals can kick-start revival
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