N’Golo Kante might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of goalscorers but he is enjoying the most prolific season of his career and Manchester United know from experience to take his threat seriously.
For all the many qualities which have made Kante one of the world’s most respected talents, not to mention claiming a clean sweep of English football’s Player of the Year awards, scoring has never been one of his strong points.
Before 2018/19, he had only ever got his name on the score sheet more than once in a single top-flight league campaign, and that was in his final year in France before coming to England. He got two league goals that season, and has got exactly one per season in the Premier League since.
Until now that is, as he has already doubled that tally from France with four league goals in the current season, in addition to getting the crucial opener in the second leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final win over Tottenham.
Combined with his league goals against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Huddersfield already in 2018/19, plus four assists, matching another personal best in the Premier League, Kante has clearly been making good use of his increased licence to attack this season.
Of course, Manchester United know better than most not to discount the French international’s attacking ability, as they are the only side Kante has scored against more than once. Both those goals came in our 2016/17 title-winning campaign, but in two different competitions.
The first was in the Premier League in October, only the third match after we had switched formation to a back three under Antonio Conte, and it was certainly a memorable occasion, as Kante added the icing to the cake by getting the last goal of a 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
The other was also at the Bridge, in the FA Cup quarter-finals, but this time it was far more meaningful. The only goal of the game settled a tense and tight meeting in the second half, as the Blues triumphed 1-0 before beating Tottenham at Wembley to book our place in the final.
In total, Kante has found the net 15 times in his professional career, meaning fully a third of all his goals have come during the current season. Even more impressively, on none of those occasions he scored has he ended up on the losing side in 90 minutes.
In fact, his team have won 13 of those 15 matches in regular time, the only exceptions being the recent draw with Burnley and his last goal for Caen before leaving for England, when he opened the scoring in the Coupe de France first round, but his team ended up drawing, also 2-2, before conceding the decisive goal in extra time.
Thankfully extra-time won’t be a possibility when we travel to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday, though, so there are plenty of omens we could be seeing Kante’s name on the scoresheet in a Chelsea win again.