Stats highlight impact of United substitutes
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reputation as one of the Premier League’s greatest ‘super-subs’ during his 11-year playing career at Manchester United is well known.
The Norwegian scored 17 of his 91 top-flight goals after coming off the bench and found the net at a rate of one every 92.9 minutes as a sub.
That tally is bolstered by the astonishing four he managed at Nottingham Forest in February 1999, despite only playing 12 minutes, while Ole, of course, would go on to score one of the most famous goals in United’s history having been introduced late on in that year’s Champions League final.
While Ole hung up his boots long ago, it appears that his knack for impacting the game from the bench lives on in his current United side.
That’s because new stats have revealed that the Reds lead the Premier League when it comes to goal involvements from substitutes in 2020/21.
Data collected by The Athletic show that 12 of our 56 top-flight goals this season have either been scored or assisted by a player who didn’t originally start the game, which is three more than nearest challengers Liverpool and four more than Chelsea and West Ham.
Our dozen goal involvements by substitutes is at least double the number achieved by 15 of the other teams in the division, with leaders Manchester City perhaps surprisingly having only managed three.
The ability of Solskjaer’s squad to contribute from the bench was made clear early on, with Donny van de Beek netting on his club debut in September, although United would go on to lose 3-1 to Crystal Palace.
After a slow start to the season, the Reds clicked into gear in November, when new signing Edinson Cavani showcased just how dangerous he could be when unleashed as a substitute against tiring defences.
The Uruguayan netted a stoppage-time goal on the break at Everton, but saved his best for the trip to Southampton, crossing for Bruno Fernandes to halve the arrears before heading home twice to cap a brilliant 45-minute cameo on the south coast.
Cavani is the Premier League’s most impactful sub this season, scoring three and assisting two, with the pass for Bruno at Leicester in the 2-2 on Boxing Day his other contribution.
Anthony Martial also ranks high in the list for goals, with the Frenchman netting a double after being introduced at half-time in the 9-0 demolition of the Saints at Old Trafford – a result topped by a stoppage-time effort from Daniel James, who was also subbed on late in proceedings.
United’s three other goal involvements by substitutes all came in one game – the 3-1 victory over West Ham at the London Stadium in December, which was a game turned by the decisions Ole made at half-time.
Marcus Rashford and Fernandes were introduced at the break against the Hammers and conjured a goal and an assist respectively, with Rashford dinking the ball into the net for our decisive third after a sumptuous through ball by fellow replacement Juan Mata.
This productivity is even more impressive when you consider the Reds rank joint-15th when it comes to the number of substitutes used, with our 75 changes far behind, for example, the 87 made by Arsenal in the same amount of games.
While Ole didn't call on a replacement in our last Premier League game before the break, with players returning from injury and the squad looking in decent shape for the run-in, we're looking forward to seeing a strong impact from the bench again in April and May.