How Manchester United has quietly amassed the joint-second most clean sheets in Europe

How quickly things can change in five months. Manchester United’s defence has gone from shambolic to steely – with Erik ten Hag’s side amassing the joint-second most clean sheets in all of Europe this season.

The Red Devils have now picked up 15 clean sheets in 27 games so far this campaign, meaning they are joint with Spanish giants Barcelona and just one behind Premier League rivals Newcastle United – who lead the list with 16.

That statistic has arguably gone under the radar, but should be a huge testament to the impact that new boss Ten Hag has already instilled since arriving at Old Trafford in the summer.

Man United have amassed the joint-second most clean sheets in all of Europe this season

The former Ajax boss was projected to come into United with his ball-playing philosophy and bring back some free-flowing football – as he is known as a pass master from his time in Holland.

The Dutchman has done that to an extent, although he perhaps should be getting praise for the steely defence that United now have, as that has been a huge issue for the club in recent seasons.

Heavy defeats to Brentford and Manchester City early in the season means they haven’t got the best goal difference in the top-flight, but since those defeats we have seen an immense transition.

That statistic is a huge testament to the impact that new boss Erik ten Hag has had at United

That statistic is a huge testament to the impact that new boss Erik ten Hag has had at United

Questions were being asked of the defence two games into the season after a 2-1 loss to Brighton, which was followed up by a horrendous 4-0 thrashing to Brentford.

Things drastically improved after that – despite one brief dip when they were thumped 6-3 by Manchester City in early October.

Sportsmail takes a look at what has really changed since the early stages of the season and Erik ten Hag’s arrival at United. 


Newcastle United – 16

Barcelona – 15

Manchester United – 15 

Manchester City – 14

Arsenal – 14

Real Sociedad – 14 


The turning point and a huge factor of the defence becoming so solid was the introduction of defensive midfielder Casemiro from the bench in that heavy City defeat – having joined from Spanish giants Real Madrid in August.

His first match was slightly delayed after his arrival, but since he has come into the starting line-up, United haven’t looked back.

Casemiro has had a huge impact at United

Casemiro has had a huge impact at United

United finally have that midfielder they have been desiring for numerous seasons, one that has offered the backline protection and has made a real difference at both ends of the pitch.

Casemiro has even scored twice and contributed five assists since he swapped the Bernabeu for Old Trafford in August. 

Even more so, it massively showed how important he is the team when they suffered a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal when he was suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card against Crystal Palace. 

The Brazilian midfielder is receiving huge praise from pundits after each and every match for his impact on games.

His presence sitting just in front of the backline has been huge, as regardless of who starts they seem to be solid with him in the line-up, whether it’s Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof or Harry Maguire at centre-back. 


David De Gea is having a sublime season, which seems surreal given his disaster start to life under Ten Hag, with his shockingly poor performance against Brentford.

David De Gea has been a key figure for United

David De Gea has been a key figure for United

The Spaniard has bounced back, despite huge criticism and even question marks surrounding his future, given his contract situation and the clear fact that the boss has never signalled his pure intent over whether or not De Gea is his man moving forward.

United have been linked with numerous goalkeepers throughout the season, but the long-serving shot-stopper appears to have cancelled that noise out, and produced some of his best displays for the club in a few seasons.

The 32-year-old has pulled off huge saves to keep United’s score lines down and appears to have adapted to life under ten Hag without too much noise surrounding his displays – whether it be positively or negatively.

De Gea has been an ever-present in every single match, barring the Carabao Cup this season, and to keep any clean sheets your goalkeeper has to play a part.

It goes without saying, keeping 15 clean sheets should win you some deserved praise.


Most have been lauding the centre-back partnership of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane, but just as important is left-back Luke Shaw.

There is no denying that Martinez has been stellar since arriving for £57million in the summer and the fact he has formed a great partnership with France star Varane.

But even in his absence after the former Ajax defender helped Argentina win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, United managed to find a way to remain solid in defence.

Luke Shaw has not put a foot wrong since being re-called at either left-back or centre-back

Luke Shaw has not put a foot wrong since being re-called at either left-back or centre-back

Even more bizarrely with England left-back Luke Shaw deployed as a centre-back, much to everyone’s surprise – helping shut down Erling Haaland and Pep Guardiola’s array of Man City stars in one of those matches.

Perhaps coming as a shock, considering the Dutchman dropped Shaw after the first two Premier League games but brought him back into the fold after missing the next five league games. Ever since, he hasn’t put a foot wrong.

Ten Hag has heaped praise on Shaw numerous times, but a stand-out moment was after the City win.

He said: ‘He’s an example of how to win big games. I’m really happy with his development. It’s been huge either at centre-half or left full-back. He’s a great player and a great personality for the dressing room.

‘It (playing him at centre back against City) is a big decision but when you analyse the profile of Haaland and the combination with De Bruyne it was also the right decision because Luke has the physical power to compete with them and has the tactical view to make the right decision and technical skills to play in that position.’


Surely no one expected this? Aaron Wan-Bissaka had played a total of four minutes prior to the 2022 World Cup break and looked as though he would be pushed out the door in January.

The former Crystal Palace full-back, instead has gone against the odds and took the opportunity to show his worth after the boss was forced to deploy him due to the injury to Diogo Dalot after the break.

The 25-year-old has played a key role since and is now arguably the first-choice at right-back, although ten Hag will be delighted to have some healthy competition when Dalot returns to full fitness.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has revived his Manchester United career since the 2022 World Cup break

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has revived his Manchester United career since the 2022 World Cup break

Some may say that Wan-Bissaka has had an easy run of games after returning to the team with the likes of Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth among his first few fixtures back.

He was, however, also tasked with marking the livewire Phil Foden and nullified his impact to the extent he was hooked after 55 minutes in their 2-1 victory over Manchester City.

Another stand-out moment was his last-ditch tackle to stop Wilfried Zaha in his tracks as he raced forward on the counter-attack in their recent 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

Wan-Bissaka has played the last nine consecutive matches in all competitions and United have kept six clean sheets during that period, proving his impact and his place back in the side.

It would be unjust if Dalot came straight back in for Wan-Bissaka while he is performing in this manner.