Manchester United have made most back passes in Premier League

Manchester United passes to goalkeeper
Image: Manchester United top the table for passes to a goalkeeper

Manchester United have been criticised for passing back to David de Gea too often, rather than looking for a forward ball – and the stats show they pass to their goalkeeper more than any other team in the Premier League.

On Saturday, against Sunderland, there were boos from the Old Trafford crowd and chants of ‘attack, attack, attack’ when Jonny Evans sent the ball back to De Gea from the halfway line after a United corner-kick.

Reflecting on the game, Louis van Gaal sympathised with the United supporters and accepted his team should not always look for a pass back to the Spanish shot-stopper.

“I agree with the fans that we don’t have to use so much the goalkeeper,” he said.

“I have seen also moments that we can play in a higher tempo without interfering with the goalkeeper.”

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said earlier this season that United’s players must look to take more risks – but the stats indicate just how heavily they rely on De Gea as a passing option.

United's outfield players have passed the ball to their goalkeeper 442 times this season, more than any other team in the top flight – and 44 more times than Everton, who are second in this measurement.

Premier League leaders Chelsea, in contrast, have passed to their ‘keeper just 277 times.

While it was Evans’ pass which drew a negative response from the United supporters against Sunderland, Marcos Rojo has in fact looked for De Gea on more occasions than any other United player. The Argentine has made 63 passes to his ‘keeper this season.

However, Phil Jones (57), Evans (51) and Smalling (50) each regularly use De Gea as well, demonstrating how frequently United’s defence turn to their ‘keeper rather than aiming a pass forwards.

On Monday Night Football in January, Neville blamed United’s “safe” approach on the mentality of the team. Whether Van Gaal can alter that approach – and appease the club’s attack-minded supporters – remains to be seen…

David de Gea passes received
Image: David de Gea has received more passes than any other goalkeeper this season

Passes received by goalkeepers

Man Utd - 442

Everton - 398

Sunderland - 393

Southampton - 367

Newcastle - 358

Swansea - 351

Leicester - 327

Liverpool - 325

West Brom - 325

Tottenham - 323

Stoke - 312

Chelsea - 277

Burnley - 274

West Ham - 274

Hull - 269

Aston Villa - 265

Arsenal - 261

Man City - 248

QPR - 240

Crystal Palace - 197

Passes to De Gea this season

Marcos Rojo - 63

Phil Jones - 57

Jonny Evans - 51

Chris Smalling - 50

Patrick McNair - 41

Michael Carrick - 32

Antonio Valencia - 29

Daley Blind - 27

Tyler Blackett - 24

Ashley Young - 16

Wayne Rooney - 14

Luke Shaw - 9

Ander Herrera - 7

Rafael - 6

Juan Mata - 5

Darren Fletcher - 4

Marouane Fellaini - 3

Angel Di María - 3

Robin van Persie - 1

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