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Manchester United’s top five most lethal finishers

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Man United have been blessed with goalscorers at Old Trafford over the years but the stats show one of their most deadly is still on the books.

Manchester United have seen numerous legendary goalscorers wear their famous red shirt over the years.

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Eleven different men have bagged at least 150 goals for the club, with Wayne Rooney the all-time record scorer with 253 goals to his name.

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But who has been the Reds’ best finisher? All supporters will have their opinion on this, and it will be impossible to find either conclusive agreement or a definitive answer. However, if we’re just interested in looking at the last nine seasons, we can use data to get a decent idea about who has been the best in the last decade.

In order to assess their finishing, we’ll look at clear-cut chances. These are defined by Opta, the Premier League’s official data collector, as “a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range”.

By focusing on these opportunities, and ignoring the penalties contained in the figures, we can see which player has performed best when clean through with just the goalkeeper to beat. Since August 2011, there have been six players who’ve had at least 40 non-penalty clear-cut chances in the Premier League for United, and here are the top five.

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  1. Robin van Persie. 27 goals from 65 attempts, 41.5% conversion
    Robin van Persie also features in Arsenal’s top five by the same measure of finishing, though he’s likely to be a more popular choice here. That said, he – spoiler alert – has edged Marcus Rashford out of the list, so perhaps not.

The Dutchman was signed with the aim of firing United to their 20th league title, and it was very much mission accomplished. Yet his record at converting the top quality chances actually improved in the years which followed. The problem was he had far fewer of them – 29 across his final two seasons after 36 in his debut campaign.

  1. Romelu Lukaku. 19 goals from 44 attempts, 43.2% conversion
    Lukaku’s record with clear-cut chances was effectively the opposite of Van Persie’s. The Belgian had more of them in his second season, despite playing 739 fewer minutes, but his conversion rate dropped.

But there was nothing wrong with his form in 2017/18. Indeed, by converting 52.4 per cent of his clear-cut chances that year, Lukaku recorded the best campaign by a United player who had more than 15 in a season.

  1. Javier Hernandez. 19 goals from 42 attempts, 45.2% conversion
    Sadly for Chicharito, his first season at Old Trafford – in which he scored the most league goals he managed in a single campaign – is excluded from the available data, else he may be even higher in our chart.

And he was certainly consistent according to the statistics we can call upon. He scored with seven of his 17 non-penalty clear-cut chances in 2011/12, and then eight from 17 the following year. The Mexican famously didn’t score from outside the box, and was excellent when presented with golden opportunities.

  1. Wayne Rooney. 38 goals from 75 attempts, 50.7% conversion
    Rooney is another player whose United career partly pre-dates the available stats, albeit by a far longer margin of course. Of his five seasons in this database, only the final one saw the Red Devils’ all-time record scorer convert a below league average proportion of his clear-cut chances.

But in the two seasons prior to that, he was electric. Rooney put away six out of seven in 2014/15, and then five from eight in Louis van Gaal’s second year in charge.

1.Anthony Martial. 23 goals from 44 attempts, 52.3% conversion
Like Lukaku, Martial flew out of the traps on the finishing front. The Frenchman tucked away nine out of 12 clear-cut chances in 2016/17, meaning that only two of his league goals that season were not from high quality opportunities.

Such form wasn’t going to last for ever, as it’s a conversion rate of roughly double the league average of 39 per cent. Even so, Martial has remained consistent enough in the four seasons since to take top spot on our countdown of United’s top finishers.

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