The relatively unknown 21 year old English midfielder burst onto the scene with his performances for Newcastle prior to obtaining a knee injury. Here’s why Manchester United are now interested in his services and what he may add to the Red Devils.
Longstaff plays largely as a deep midfielder who prioritises defence and winning the ball back yet is also adept in offense. Making his debut for Newcastle halfway through last season he put up some impressive performances and numbers in his limited time on the pitch. Longstaff boasts a phenomenal work-rate. In his first five appearances he covered the most ground on the pitch out of any player. This included fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs. His high work-rate combined with his equally impressive anticipation leads to Longstaff being extremely successful in winning the ball back. He averaged 1.9 tackles per game and 1.1 interceptions. With a 76% tackle success rate. In comparison, Manchester United’s current holding midfielder Nemanja Matic averaged 2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game. Boasting a 71% tackle success rate. Longstaff’s ability to anticipate where the ball is going and intercepting ability would be phenomenal for United as it would provide United with a platform to counter with speed through their wingers.
On the ball, Longstaff is rather composed and is a solid distributor of the ball. In his eight appearances as a starter he averaged 32.6 passes a game with 80.9% completion. He also had 0.6 key passes per game and 3.3 long balls. Solid figures. What’s particularly interesting from this is Longstaff’s long balls. He’s very successful with playing long balls over the top of the defence. This could be extremely beneficial for United as it would add a new attacking dimension and provide a means of breaking down defences.
In terms of his offensive numbers, Longstaff scored 2 goals and had 0.9 shots per game, decent figures for a holding midfielder in just 8 starting appearances. While on loan at Blackpool he also scored 9 goals in 45 appearances proving he can be an asset offensively.
His most impressive performance to date came when Newcastle defeated Manchester City 2-1. City manager Pep Guardiola praised Longstaff after the game saying “We could not deal with Newcastle’s holding midfielders.”
His impressive performances so far have led to many comparisons with Manchester United legend Michael Carrick due to his work-rate, passing, vision and defensive capabilities. When asked about the comparisons to Carrick his then manager Rafa Benitez said then following - “I can see that, but at this stage Sean has more mobility and stamina. Certainly he has the technique and he can use both feet as well.”
Overall, there’s no doubt of Longstaff’s potential. However, it’s hard to judge just how good he can be due to his appearances being limited due to injury. Although, in his short spell in the Premier League he has earned high praise from very well respected managers. A transfer with low risk and high reward at around £25m, Longstaff would be a welcome addition to the United squad boasting all the right attributes needed to succeed at the club and could prove to be the long-term holding midfielder for the Old Trafford side.