Sep 22 2015

Tactics Board- Martial glory as Rooney flounders

Tactics BoardSouthampton FC [2] vs [3] Manchester United
St Mary’s Stadium – 20 September 2015

A Manchester United victory over Liverpool last week was followed by a lost away to PSV midweek in the Champions League. More damaging was Luke Shaw’s broken leg, meaning that Louis Van Gaal needed to change his back line. Led by another Dutch coach, Southampton has struggled to rediscover the form that led to a 7th place finish in the league. With no love lost between the coaches, the Saints were set up to take advantage of United’s weaknesses. Continue reading

Sep 18 2015

Tactics Board- Double Dutched

Tactics BoardPSV [2] vs [1] Manchester United

Philips Stadion – 15 September 2015

Manchester United looked sharp in their play-off ties against Club Brugge. After beating Liverpool 3-1 over the weekend, United hoped they would carry some momentum into matchday 1 against the reigning champions of the Netherlands, who lost 2 key players in Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum in the summer. While United have struggled creating chances this season, this was not a problem here. Instead, they were sloppy converting their chances and made a couple costly mistakes that PSV were able to finish. Continue reading

Sep 15 2015

Tactics Board- Another roll over Liverpool

Tactics BoardManchester United [3] vs [1] Liverpool
Old Trafford – 12 September 2015

Both Manchester United and Liverpool came into this derby game with questions. United lost to Swansea 2-1, before the international break. They’ve floundered in a domestic season in which sterile possession has been the norm, a lack of striking options and £38 million spent on a 19-year old striker with 52 Ligue 1 appearances to his name. Liverpool came in with their own problems, a lack of incision in attack and a confused identity as their fans wait to see if Brendan Rodgers could find the form that led them to second in the league 2 seasons ago. Continue reading

Sep 01 2015

Tactics Board- United falls against Swansea’s changes

Tactics BoardSwansea vs Manchester United

Liberty Stadium – 30th August, 2015

Manchester United came into this game on the back of a convincing 4-0 victory over Club Brugge midweek. While they looked impressive in both legs of the Champion’s League Play-off, they have looked less assured in the league. United travelled to the Liberty Stadium, having lost both games last season against Gary Monk’s side, and the fans wondered which performance was the real Manchester United. Was it the team that beat Club Brugge 7-1 on aggregate, or the one who scored 2 goals in 3 games with one of those being an own goal. Continue reading

Aug 28 2015

Tactics Board- Generous stay in Brugge

Tactics BoardClub Brugge vs Manchester United
Jan Breydel Stadium – August 26th, 2015

Manchester United came into this match with a 3-1 victory in the first leg, and only 90 minutes away from a return to the group stage of the UEFA Champion’s League. The win against the Belgians at Old Trafford was the team’s best performance so far in this still young season. Memphis Depay had a phenomenal first European game for the Red Devils, scoring 2 goals and registering an assist for the final goal to Marouane Fellaini to give United a bit of breathing room after Club Brugge had been reduced to 10 men.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1)
After playing a 0-0 draw versus Newcastle United at the weekend, Louis Van Gaal made 2 changes in the central midfield. Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick got the start while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin were left on the bench. Adnan Januzaj staying in the squad as the central attacking midfielder was a bit of a surprise, as he didn’t have a great game against Newcastle United and Fellaini was available.

Club Brugge (4-1-4-1)
Michel Preud’homme’s team comes in with back-to-back losses, after losing to United in the first leg and Zulte-Waregem domestically. He was also without his captain, Timmy Simons, through injury and Brandan Mechele through suspension.

This meant he made 5 changes from the first leg. One of his changes was bringing in goalkeeper Sinan Bolat for Sebastien Bruzzese. Dion Cools was replaced by Jean Charles Castelletto at right-back. The center-back pairing consisted of Oscar Duarte, and Davy de Fauw, with Laurens De Bock staying at left-back. Replacing Timmy Simons as the holding midfield was Claudemir, with Ruud Vormer and Victor Vazquez ahead of him. Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo started again on the left side, while Abdoulay Diaby shifted to right wing and was replaced by Tom De Sutter up front.

The first half lineup for Club Brugge vs Manchester United

The first half lineup for Club Brugge vs Manchester United


  • Manchester United found success down the left side with the advanced positioning of Luke Shaw, and the defensive slackness of Abdoulay Diaby.
  • Club Brugge found success in the right channel as Shaw’s advanced position left Diaby space to attack into.
  • Davy de Fauw took poor defensive positions, opening up avenues of attack for Manchester United.
  • United looked more dangerous after a half-time switch to a 4-3-3

Poor defense affects both teams

After an impressive European debut for Memphis Depay, Michel Preud’homme made several changes defensively. Dion Cools, who struggled with Memphis in the first leg, was left on the bench and Jean Charles Castelletto, who is normally a center-back, was started at left-back. With Brandan Mechele suspended, left-back Davy de Fauw started alongside Oscar Duarte. One can assume that the Belgian coach wanted to have more defensive solidity against a dangerous inverted winger like Memphis, and Castelletto played fairly well. However, playing a full-back like de Fauw as a center-back caused problems.

An additional problem for Brugge was their defensive midfielder, Claudemir, who was frequently dragged out of position by Adnan Januzaj. Januzaj has gotten more comfortable in the number 10 role, playing more as a central winger than as a second striker. He was very effective in moving horizontally across the pitch, taking Claudemir with him, and leaving open spaces for Memphis and Mata to attack into.

Defensive flaws in the positioning of Claudemir and de Fauw

Defensive flaws in the positioning of Claudemir and de Fauw

An excellent example of this was Manchester United’s first goal, as Claudemir was dragged out of position by Januzaj. Memphis took the ball into this vacated space. Duarte was forced to step forward to put pressure on Memphis, but de Fauw was too far away and Memphis was able to play a through-ball in for Rooney.

Manchester United had much success attacking down the left side, which was helped by Abdoulay Diaby’s poor defensive work-rate. Luke Shaw was frequently able to get into dangerous positions, and Diaby showed very little willingness to track back. However, the attacking instincts of Luke Shaw left United exposed several times.

So far this season, Daley Blind has done well at center-back. He has been very effective in shuttling over to cover for Luke Shaw, helped by the defensive cover that Morgan Schneiderlin provided in the middle of the pitch. In this game, however, Schneiderlin was left on the bench and Michael Carrick didn’t cover as well as the Frenchman.

Shaw caught out defending, with Blind trying to cover for him

Shaw caught out defending, with Blind trying to cover for him

A couple of opportunities presented themselves near the end of the first half for Club Brugge. Shaw was caught up the pitch, and Blind slid over to cover his area but the gaps in the defense were too wide and Tom De Sutter and Diaby were each given an opportunity to get behind United.

Manchester United changes to a 4-3-3

Adnan Januzaj was taken off at half-time and replaced by Bastian Schweinsteiger. This change meant United switched from a 4-2-3-1 to more of a 4-3-3 that they used towards the end of last season. One of the key effects of this change was that Ander Herrera played further up the field, alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. Both players are very effective in pressing the opposition, as well as looking to increase the tempo of play. United looked much faster in attack, and were more successful in pressing Brugge in their own half.

2nd half lineup after Manchester United switch to 4-3-3

2nd half lineup after Manchester United switch to 4-3-3

This change caused several other advantages for Manchester United. With now both Schweinsteiger and Herrera playing ahead of Carrick, it allowed Juan Mata to stay further up the pitch. In this position he was able to have a better effect on United’s attack in the final third, as was shown for the third goal.

Club Brugge was forced to chase the game, and commit more men forward, which left them vulnerable to United’s pressing. With Schweinsteiger and Herrera pressing from the midfield, the Red Devils were able to regain the ball higher up field. This meant that they would often be attacking with 5 players, as both Schweinsteiger and Herrera were willing and able to get forward on the counter attack and this was evident for the second and fourth goal.


Another good performance for Manchester United to ensures their return to the Champions League group stage. Wayne Rooney was able to end his scoring drought in exhilarating fashion. In addition, Manchester United looked more dangerous with the ball after they switched to a 4-3-3. Having a 3 man midfield got the best out of Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick. Carrick operated better in a 3 than he did in a double pivot, with Herrera’s running helping to cover some of the ground that he couldn’t. A performance like this will be difficult to replicate on the weekend, as Swansea won’t be forced to chase the game like Club Brugge did, but United looked better on the attack in a 4-3-3 than they have with a 4-2-3-1 this season.

Comments are always welcome!

By Joe Schurhammer (@RangeRooney)

Aug 24 2015

Tactics Board – Unable to finish off the Magpies

Tactics BoardAfter an excellent performance on their return to European competition, many were hoping that Manchester United’s improved form would carry to their league game against Newcastle. However, while United looked good for long periods of the game, creating multiple chances, they struggled to put the chances away. The performance was better than the first two league games, but the same old doubts resurfaced.

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Aug 21 2015

Tactics Board – Returning to Europe in style

Tactics BoardAfter a year in the wilderness, Manchester United returned to European action by hosting Club Brugge of Belgium for the first-leg of the play-off match to reach the group stage.

United came into the game after winning their first two games of the season 1-0, which are a valuable 6 points but they still haven’t looked all that convincing. The Belgians are further into their season than the Mancunians, beating Panathinaikos 4-2 in the third qualifying round of the Champions League, in addition to 4 league games. A game that started slowly for United eventually turned into one of their best performances under Louis Van Gaal.

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Aug 17 2015

Tactics Board – United put Villa under pressure

Tactics Board

After a struggling 1-0 win over the Tottenham Hotspur on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Manchester United travelled to Villa Park for a rare Friday night match against Aston Villa.

Villa fought out a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth, with Tim Sherwood playing a more aggressive brand of football but they rarely bothered United, as they notched up a second consecutive win.

Louis Van Gaal’s men were hardly entertaining and some tactical patterns are beginning to emerge yet again.

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