If there’s been one lesson to be learnt so far this season, is that the options at David Moyes’ disposal resemble a blanket that it’s never quite long enough, thus always leaving some vital parts of United not properly covered.
Wednesday’s superb performance against Leverkusen highlighted how big a difference Shinj Kagawa can make when deployed in his favoured number 10 role but, given the injuries that sidelined Robin Van Persie and Michael Carrick, the formation Moyes adopted in Germany was borne out of necessity rather than conviction.
After a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory at Aston Villa a week earlier, Manchester United visited Carrow Road for a dangerous encounter with a Norwich City squad that is undefeated in their previous 5 games in all competitions, including games against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. The Red Devils came into this game missing some key players, including their main playmakers, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa.
Norwich came with a sound strategy, incorporating things that Aston Villa did well against the Red Devils a week earlier. Opting not to sit back and defend, instead they applied pressure up the pitch and tried to hit on the counter-attack. The Canaries also used Grant Holt as a strong target man, similar to Marouane Fellaini of Everton and Christian Benteke of Aston Villa, who United struggled against. Without Rooney or Kagawa, the Red Devils lacked any invention or creativity in the middle of the pitch and were too dependent on the wingers to create chances, especially considering the poor game that Antonio Valencia put in. With Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looking flat and without fire, it seemed that once Norwich took a 1-0 lead that United was never going to get back into the game. Continue reading
Aston Villa faced the league leaders with a positive game plan, a big change on the negative style that Aston Villa fans were forced to suffer through last season under Alex McLeish. They looked to play solid defense, pressing United’s midfield and denying space for Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, while striking quickly on the counter-attack. Manchester United struggled throughout the first half, unable to find their rhythm, and ended up down by two goals with just over 30 minutes to turn the result around. A clever substitution and formation change by Sir Alex Ferguson fuelled another epic comeback from the Red Devils, ensuring that they would go to sleep that night 4 points clear at the top of the table. Continue reading
A fairly dreary game that wasn’t much of a tactical battle, Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over an embarrassingly uninspired Arsenal team was still 3 important points for the Red Devils. Arsene Wenger’s squad was missing some key players, such as Abou Diaby and Kieran Gibbs, but that still doesn’t explain such a poor performance by a squad that most neutral observers would admit plays some entertaining football. In the past 3 weeks, Arsenal has lost 1-0 to Norwich City, 2-0 to Schalke, had to come back from 4-0 to defeat Reading 7-5, and claimed a 1-0 victory over a 10-man Queens Park Rangers. Arsenal brought this extremely poor run of form into Old Trafford to take on an extremely dangerous Manchester United squad, fresh from a 3-2 victory over league leaders Chelsea a week earlier. Continue reading
This was a well fought game between the top 2 teams in the league this year. Much of the post-game conversation has focused on the calls, and some say mistakes, of Mark Clattenburg. This has been covered much better than I could ever hope to do by numerous other blogs, so I’m going to focus on the tactical battle instead. Dominating the early part of the game, the Red Devils were able to take a 2-0 lead before Chelsea led an impressive fight back to tie the game at 2-2. Chelsea looked like they could have been on their way to earning 1 point, if not all three, before Branislav Ivanovic got his red card. Once they were reduced to 9 men, it was only a matter of time before the Red Devils took the lead, and all three points. Continue reading
Another round of World Cup Qualifiers means that club football takes a back seat and we get a chance to watch international teams and the different tactics they use. Now, on Friday, October 12th, there was a World Cup Qualifier in South America that every Manchester United fan should have taken note of, even though there wasn’t a single United player on the pitch. The game in question was Argentina’s 3-0 win over Uruguay.
This was an important World Cup Qualifier between 2 national teams in the top 8 of the FIFA rankings, but there was one aspect of this game that should be noted by Red Devil fans, as it may be a look into the future this season. This should have been a close game, but Argentina was able to dominant the 2011 Copa America champions through their use of a lopsided 4-4-2 Diamond formation. This is a formation that most Manchester United fans have become familiar with in the past few weeks, but Argentina played the formation different in several ways that the Red Devils should take note of. Before looking at Argentina’s approach, first we’ll look at Manchester United’s.
This game was decided fairly early on by Manchester United’s fast start. The Red Devils scored twice in 16 minutes off of set pieces, the opposite of what the Red Devils have been dealing with so far this year. Manchester United was able to control the game early on with the extra man they had in the midfield, but after gaining a 2-0 lead, Alan Pardew made changes that made the rest of the game much more even. Adding another goal in the second half ensured that Manchester United gained all 3 points in their best performance this season. Continue reading
Manchester United came into this game looking to continue a good run of results, if not necessarily good form. Tottenham Hotspur came into this game with Andres Villa-Boas still not getting the results that Spurs fans have been hoping. Another slow start by Manchester United allowed the Spurs to gain a lead 2 minutes into the game. United’s performance in the first half was truly shocking, as they lacked fire and effort, and Tottenham was able to overrun an aging Red Devil midfield.
Going in at halftime down 2-0, the Manchester United team that came out in the second half looked nothing like the shambolic team that struggled in the first half. Replacing Ryan Giggs with Wayne Rooney, the Red Devils were able to dominate possession and press the Spurs deeper into their own end. A flurry of 3 goals in 3 minutes early in the second half reduced United’s deficit to 1 and while the Red Devils attack looked potent during the second half, Tottenham defended valiantly and denied United the tying goal. Continue reading
After a tight 1-0 victory over Turkish club Galatasaray mid-week in the Champion’s League, Manchester United travelled to Anfield for one of the most looked forward to fixtures of the season in club football. While United were coming off an ugly 1-0 victory, Liverpool came into the game with only 2 points out of an available 12, so both teams were looking for points from a tense encounter.
The game was fairly open in the first 10 minutes, as neither team could take control. After the initial 10 minutes, however, the game settled down and Liverpool started to control possession with their 3v2 advantage in the central midfield. Liverpool was able to dominate possession and force United deep into their own zone, through their advantage in midfield and their high defensive line. Unfortunately, Liverpool couldn’t get on the score sheet before Jonjo Shelvey was given a red card late in the first half. The second half started with a goal by Steven Gerrard, but the lead lasted only 5 minutes until Rafael brought the visitors back. Down to 10 men, Liverpool was now the team struggling for possession after Paul Scholes was brought into the game to help United control the midfield. The Reds played well, and the game looked like it was going to end in a 1-1 draw until a controversial penalty decision in the 81st minute. Van Persie converted the penalty, and that ended up being the winning goal. Continue reading
Manchester United played host to Wigan, with memories fresh of the 1-0 loss at the DW Stadium towards the end of last season. 3 points that the Red Devils could have used, but they played poorly and struggled to deal with the 3-5-2 that Roberto Martinez’s side played extremely well. This game started well for the Latics, as they were able to disrupt Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and keep them from getting into an offensive rhythm. Wigan’s pressure, combined with Fergie’s decision to rest key players ahead of the Champion’s League tie on Wednesday led both teams to go in at the half scoreless. Wigan was effective at limiting United’s chances in the first half, but they struggled to create any chances of their own. In the second half, Manchester United was finally able to unlock Wigan’s defense after 5 minutes. Once the Red Devils got their first goal, the flood gates opened and Wigan struggled to deal with the higher pace United played at. By the time the final whistle blew, United had netted 4 and Wigan only managed 1 shot on target in a decisive victory for the Red Devils. Continue reading
In only 3 games this season, it seems more likely that Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant formation this year will be an off-shoot of the 4-3-3. The last time that Sir Alex Ferguson used a 4-3-3 as his dominant formation was between 2006 and 2009, a period when the Red Devils won 3 straight Premier League titles, a League cup and the Champion’s League. Sir Alex Ferguson has always been associated with the 4-4-2, and achieved considerable success with this formation but that didn’t stop his tactics from evolving.
Some managers achieve success with a formation, and will only use this formation for the rest of their career. A good example of this is Giovanni Trapattoni, currently coaching the Republic of Ireland national team, but Fergie has always evolved with the time, even if it is slightly slow at times. After seeing Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team win the League twice (2004-2005, 2005-2006), United started to toy with the 4-3-3 that Chelsea used, and he made several changes until this formation led to one of United’s most successful runs. Continue reading
After another close game against Fulham, Manchester United travelled to St. Mary’s Stadium for Sir Alex Ferguson’s 1000th league game against newly promoted Southampton. Nigel Adkin’s side came into the game without any points but they had a close affair to open the season against champions Manchester City at the Etihad. The Red Devils had another near miss in this game, as they struggled to deal with Southampton’s pressure in the midfield and Rickie Lambert’s aerial ability. Southampton defended well, causing problems for Manchester United’s attack while Morgan Schnelderlin caused problems for United’s defense with his late runs. If not for 2 goals in the closing minutes of the match, the Red Devil’s would have lost their second game of the season. Continue reading
Manchester United recovered from an opening day loss to Everton with a 3-2 win over visiting Fulham. Sir Alex Ferguson made changes after the disappointing first game, including dropping Wayne Rooney to the bench, while Van Persie gets his first club start. Meanwhile, Fulham came into the game after beating Norwich City 5-0 to open the season. An impressive performance, especially considering one of the club’s best player, Clint Dempsey, has been missing while trying to push through a transfer.
After giving up an early goal, United’s attack looked impressive. They moved the ball around the pitch quickly, linking up with smart runs off the ball by the players up front. United looked in control of the game until Moussa Dembele started to use his size and strength to out muscle the Red Devils in the midfield. This performance, and a sloppy goalkeeping error that resulted in an own goal made the end of this game more stressful than it should have been for Manchester United. Continue reading
The Premier League season opened for Manchester United this season with a challenging visit to Goodison Park to face a tough Everton squad. Many Red fans will remember our last game against Everton, a 4-4 draw that seemed to cost the Red Devils their 20th league championship. This game was highly anticipated by most people to see how Sir Alex Ferguson would play his squad after the addition of 29-year old Dutch striker Robin Van Persie from Arsenal. Unfortunately for most fans, Van Persie started the game on the bench and United played with Rooney and Welbeck on the field. United’s offense struggled at times against a well-disciplined Everton defense, while defensively the Red Devils had the same problem they had in the game last season: a tall, powerful Belgian sporting an afro named Marouane Fellaini. Continue reading