The Tactics Board – United catch Merseyside Blues

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.

Manchester United vs Everton

Goodison Park – August 20th, 2012

Starting Formation-

Manchester United (4-3-3)-
Many people were anxious to see how Manchester United would line-up to incorporate Robin Van Persie into the line-up, but the Dutchman started the game on the bench. The team came out in a 4-3-3, with an unsettled back line. David De Gea started in goal, much more settled in after his performance at the end of last season. Patrice Evra starts at left-back, with Antonio Valencia started at right-back while Rafael started the game on the bench. Nemanja Vidic made his return from his knee injury to start at center-back alongside Michael Carrick, drafted in with all the defensive injuries. At the age of 37, Paul Scholes started in the midfield alongside 23-year old Tom Cleverley. New arrival Shinji Kagawa got the start as the most advanced midfielder. Up front, Wayne Rooney started in the center, with Danny Welbeck supporting him on the left and Nani on the right.

Everton (4-4-1-1)-
David Moyes brought his squad in a fairly conservative 4-4-1-1 formation, but he picked his strategy well and used the players that would cause the most problems for the Red Devils. Former Red Devil Tim Howard started in goal, with Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka ahead of him. Tony Hibbert started at right back, while Leighton Baines got the start at left-back in front of the team that was reportedly chasing him all summer. A fairly defensive pairing of Phil Neville and Darren Gibson started in central midfield. After making his loan move permanent over the summer, Steven Pienaar started at left wing and Leon Osman got the nod at right-wing. Up front was former Rangers striker, Nicolas Jelavic, while the powerful Belgian midfielder, Fellaini, started behind him.

Starting Formation

Key Points-

  • Van Persie starts on the bench
  • De Gea keeps the Red Devils in the game with several show stopping saves.
  • Fellaini shows true class, and outmuscles United all over the field.
  • Everton pressures United high up the pitch on defense, causing problems for United as they try to play it out of the back.
  • Rooney & Nani put in a lackluster performance. United’s attack anemic in the final third.



Red Devils problem and standout

Sir Alex Ferguson lined the team in a 4-3-3, but it played closer to a 4-2-1-3 with Kagawa playing in the hole as a ‘number 10’ playmaker. Wayne Rooney led the front line, but he struggled with a poor game. On his left, Danny Welbeck got the start and he played very narrow, frequently staying near the center of the pitch trying to link up with Kagawa and Rooney. With Welbeck playing narrow, it was mostly left to Patrice Evra to get forward and provide any width to United’s attack on the left side. On the right side, Nani started out wide. While the Portuguese winger would try to cut in, he provided much more width on the right side than Welbeck did on the left side. In addition, Antonio Valencia had some success getting forward down the right side to provide crosses into the box.

Midfield Alignment

Shinji Kagawa had a very good first game for his new club. He showed great movement, moving laterally all over the field behind United’s front three. In addition to his quality movement, he had a deft touch and fantastic vision to pick out a defense splitting pass. He tried to link up several times with Wayne Rooney, but the play would often fall apart from a poor touch by Wayne Rooney. For as sharp as Kagawa looked, Wayne Rooney gave a woeful performance. He was off his normal pace, and his first touch was truly lackluster. It’s unknown if he’s sporting a minor injury, or still working off some off-season excesses, but one hopes he gets up to speed with Robin Van Persie lurking in the background.

Shinji Kagawa started in the hole behind Manchester United’s attacking three, and he excelled in that position. He struggled to find space in the middle, but he had great movement to move laterally into space to find the ball. While he looked sharp on the ball, and was able to play some defense splitting passes, the issues with Rooney led to most of his passes going sideways or backwards.

Deeper in the midfield for United was Tom Cleverley, coming off a great Olympics for Team Great Britain, and Paul Scholes, who played as the deepest midfielder. Cleverley put in a decent game overall, but he and Scholes struggled to put their stamp on the game as they were under constant pressure from Everton’s defense.

In addition to some quality passing, Cleverley’s work rate was appreciated on defense even though that isn’t the strongest aspect of his game. In the first 10 minutes of the game, Cleverley was able to pressure Gibson on receiving a pass from Fellaini and cause a turnover. Kagawa picked up the ball and started a quick counter-attack. He slid a perfect through-ball forward for Rooney between Jagielka and Distin. Rooney ran onto the ball, but seemed a bit slow and this allowed Distin to force him out of a shooting position. Rooney eventually passed the ball across the box for Kagawa, but Phil Neville was able to clear it just before the Japanese international could connect with a shot.

Everton press defensively

Defensive pressure up the field like this from United was rare, but Everton applied pressure up the field through most of the game and United struggled playing the ball out from the back. Fellaini and Jelavic were constantly closing down and pressuring the player with the ball on United’s defensive line. This pressure continued through most of the game, and it was successful at times causing United to play long-balls forward that were frequently won by Everton. The success of Everton’s pressure is evident by the fact that they won possession 7 times in United’s attacking third, while United never won possession in Everton’s attacking third.

Defensively, Phil Neville and Darren Gibson played very deep in the central midfield in a ball-winning role for Everton, having very little offensive responsibilities. They stayed very deep, and congested the middle of the field by combining with Jagielka, and Distin, to fill the middle of the penalty box and deny United’s attack any room to play. There was little space for United to play into and it’s evident as Kagawa received most of his passes deeper in the midfield or out wide. This congestion caused all sorts of problems for the Red Devils, as they were either reluctant to put crosses in or unsuccessful at playing the crosses in. Additionally, they seemed to prefer to try and play the ball in through the middle, rather than play in a cross.

The reluctance to play in crosses was puzzling, as they had Rooney, Nani, Welbeck, Kagawa, and often Cleverley moving up near the box. By trying to play the ball in through the middle, there were too many United and Everton players in the same area to allow any openings and the ball was frequently turned over, however, if they would have played crosses in from out wide, this congestion would have worked to Manchester United’s advantage. They attempted 34 crosses in the game, but were only successful with 6 of them.

Fellaini was responsible for pressuring Scholes when he received the ball, and he did a good job at not allowing the 37-year old time on the ball to pick apart Everton’s defense. When Cleverley stayed deep, Fellaini was also responsible for pressuring him on the ball. When both Cleverley and Scholes sat deep, Fellaini had problems shutting them both down but frequently Cleverley would try to step up towards the box and this relieved Fellaini from marking him, as Gibson then took over marking him.

Marouane Fellaini – Midfield Superstar

Everton Player Positions

The standout player of the game was easy for anybody to pick out. Marouane Fellaini had a simply exceptional game, and David Moyes built his attacking game plan entirely around his strength, aerial ability, and positioning. He played behind Jelavic, and he was easily able to outmuscle both United’s midfield and defense. His performance was so dominant that Phil Neville and Darren Gibson played almost no role in the attack. They were there as ball-winning midfielders, and stayed deep to ensure a United counter-attack couldn’t bypass their defense. Instead of playing the ball out of the back through the center, it was most commonly played out to the fullbacks, who would play a high ball (not a route 1 long ball) to Fellaini in the middle of the pitch, and he was constantly able to get up and win the ball. His skills with positioning and strength were such that he was repeatedly able to box out a defender, and play the ball off his chest to his feet where he was then able to play a pass to Pienaar or Jelavic. Note to the left Jelavic and the wingers positioned near Fellaini to retrieve the knockdowns.

Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game, “Fellaini is a handful. He’s a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball towards him all the time. That’s all they did and they worked it from that base. But he got the goal for them so it’s justified.”

A great example of United’s struggles came in the 14th minute. On a throw-in from Baines, Fellaini was able to position himself to block out Valencia. He took the throw-in off his chest, and flicked it past Michael Carrick at the edge of the penalty area. With Carrick half a step behind him, Fellaini took the ball in towards the near post before he tried to chip a shot over David De Gea from a poor angle that bounced off the outside of the goal post.

Fellaini caused multiple problems for United, but Jelavic was fairly quiet up front. The other most dangerous option for Everton came from Steven Pienaar. The newly acquired winger would cut in from the left to pick up knock-down balls or passes from Fellaini and come inside. With Nani’s lax defensive work on the right, right-back Antonio Valencia had serious defensive issues. Tom Cleverley(Purple) was left responsible for covering Pienaar(Purple) when he cut inside and Valencia(Yellow) would stay out wide to deal with Leighton Baines(Yellow).

MUFC Defensive Assignments

Near Misses, Super Saves, and finally a goal

Everton definitely had the best scoring chances during this game. If it wasn’t for some superb saves by Spaniard David De Gea, and hitting the post, Everton could have scored 3 or more goals in this game. In the first half, Steven Pienaar tried to curl a shot in at the far post that required De Gea to sprawl out and deflect past the post.

After De Gea made 3 quality saves in the first half, Manchester United also had a bit of luck on their side at the start of the second half. Hibbert, on one of his few attacking runs forward, plays a cross towards the back post, and Fellaini is able to up and win the duel versus Vidic. He flicked the ball back towards the penalty spot to an unmarked Leon Osman. Osman blasts a volley that bounces off the bottom part of the cross bar, and United is fortunately able to clear.

But the Red Devils luck couldn’t last, and the inevitable happened in the 57th minute from a corner set piece. Gibson delivered the ball, and Fellaini was able to get up past Carrick and powered a header into the net that De Gea had no chance of stopping.

Fellaini’s power in the air, and during set pieces, was evident through the full game and was on display during the 4-4 game last season, but the responsibility of marking him was left to Michael Carrick, instead of Vidic. Vidic was tasked with Phil Jagielka, but Jagielka wasn’t targeted with any set pieces. Carrick is a good defender, but he doesn’t have the strength and aerial ability of the Serbian defender.

Control Possession but no bite

In the first 25 minutes of this match, Manchester United controlled possession 64% to 36%, but Everton was getting the more promising scoring chances. The Red Devils struggled to unlock a very well-disciplined Everton defense in the box, as their only real chances came on the counter-attack. In the 38th minute, Kagawa played another dangerous looking through-ball behind Everton’s defense to Danny Welbeck just at the edge of the 18 yard box. Welbeck took a shot that went just wide of the far post as he was falling from a push by Jagielka.

Another great chance for United came in stoppage time at the end of the first half that would have given United a 1-0 lead. Completely unmarked at the edge of the 6-yard box, Wayne Rooney completely missed a beautiful lofted cross from Shinji Kagawa. It bounced off of Rooney’s shoulder, and Tim Howard was easily able to clear it away.

As the game went on, United continued to control possession. As the game wore on, with Everton leading by a goal, they started to defend a bit deeper and United started to control possession even more. But they struggled to unlock the compact Everton defense, and only 4 passes were completed by Manchester United into the 18 yard box.

Van Persie comes on and a tactical preview?

In the 68th minute, Robin Van Persie came on for Danny Welbeck as the Red Devils hunted for the tying goal. Once Van Persie came on, United’s attack changed a bit in what might be a preview of United’s attack for the rest of the season. They stayed in the same formation, with 3 forwards supported by Shinji Kagawa playing in a playmaking role behind them. There were two central midfielders, Cleverley and Scholes, supporting in a deeper role.

While the formation was similar to what had been played the rest of the game, the attack looked different. In an attack that is reminiscence of the attack in 2008, there was movement between the front three players, as they switched roles and played in each other to try and get into open space. In the remaining 20 minutes of the game, you would see Van Persie playing out on the left, with Rooney in the middle and Young on the right. Than Rooney would go out to the right and Van Persie would come central. Than Young would come left, Van Persie would go right, and Rooney would come back central. This type of attack and movement is similar to what Sir Alex Ferguson used in 2008 with Rooney, Tevez, and Ronaldo, with each player each being able to play all three front attacking positions.

To combine three attacking forwards like this with the abilities of Shinji Kagawa behind them should make any United fan excited, as this level of passing, movement, technical ability and tactical awareness should make the Red Devils a dangerous scoring threat as the season goes along.


Unfortunately, this game was not one of the Red Devils better efforts. Again, they struggled to deal with a tall powerful midfield presence. There can be no doubt that Fellaini was the man of the match, as he had a dominant performance. If not for David De Gea, Everton could have won more decisively. De Gea and Shinji Kagawa were definite standouts for United, while Nani made minimal impact on this game and his lack of defensive work caused problems for Valencia and Cleverley. Additionally, Manchester United’s talisman striker, Wayne Rooney, looked unprepared for league football as he was sloppy with possession, slow with his movement and just didn’t appear to be at his best. For United’s attack to really click this year, it is a pre-requisite that Wayne Rooney is up to his usual caliber.

By Range Rooney



  1. Good summary. I also like the idea of a return to 2008 as we do now have forwards more than capable of overlapping. But if that is going to work the service needs to be much better.

    It was nonsensical. The first half when it was basically a 4-4-2 as Welbeck was playing so centrally and Nani was playing so wide instead of providing crosses into the box we tried to play everything through the centre which had limited success because Everton are rock solid through the middle.

    Then when we did play more of a 4-3-3 with better movement with the introduction of Van Persie rather than playing it through the middle and giving players like Van Persie the ball to their feet we start slinging in crosses from the flanks and incredibly poor crosses at that.

    As people pointed out in another thread if we are going to get a tactical makeover to incorporate new signings like Kagawa and RVP we really need better coaching input.

    Otherwise we should keep it simple and go back to 4-4-2.

  2. Nice sum up RangeRooney. At least we got one aspect of Barcelonanization right and that’s the amount of passes we conjured – 571 completed passes if I am not wrong . Now we only need the ruthless Messi and co and we are complete :mrgreen:

    @colver: I think we are going to use a variety of tactics this season but I wont be surprised if 4-2-1-3 is the main one as it can incorporate wingers and strikers while having a midfield of two and the luxury of a central attacking midfielder. To be honest, one problem that Sir Alex and the technical bench need to sort out quickly is to figure out which tactics suit us best as sticking with only one won’t be suitable for certain players (4-4-2 and kagawa is underutilized plus midfield will be overrun due to lack of defensive mids, 4-2-3-1 and we will have to sacrifice a striker or Kagawa if rooney plays in the hole etc) otherwise we are going to be hit or miss this season.

  3. Rooney
    Angelo Hernandez

    ——– Two good players… rest are average. 🙄 🙄

    ——— Fully fit, this is a SOLID defense. Without fit Rio, we’re relying on Vidic too much 😐

    De Gea
    ——– Best goal-keeping combo in league/(europe?) 8) 8)

  4. no excuses we should be winning theses matches- our players look like they have shackles

  5. Tactics are one thing but execution in crucial at this level. You simply can’t have star players that cant control the ball with their first touch, or pass accurately or cross the ball into an area that gives our strikers a good chance of success.
    Until these problems are ironed out it will not matter at all how they line up.

    • @joonnn:
      Who did they play first game? Wigan
      Who did they play last game at home? Reading

      Who are destined for the drop this season: Reading and Wigan.

      So stop stuffing yourselves over Hazard until he comes up against bigger fish. Geez 🙄 🙄 🙄 🙄

      • @joonnn: Make @Opti: To be fair, we dropped points against Wigan last year. Last year’s relegated blackburn beat us convicingly. Credit where credit is due, Hazard has done good enough for them in first two matches. Matches like these define the season.

        • @AndyCR7: New season, new players, new rules.

          Wigan are worse this year and Reading are cannon-fodder.

        • @Opti: You decided that after first match? Wigan were fighting to avoid relegation last year. I don’t think they can get worse than that.

        • @AndyCR7: They won crazy many games at end of last season (Arsenal, Chelsea, United) when their back was up against the wall: sink or swim and they dog-paddles their arses off… not this time.

          Wye wye wigan! 😀

  6. So everyone keeps saying “without ddg they would’ve had x goals” well how would the match have gone without fellaini?

    • @gator: Felliani was not playing in DEFENSE for them and he was not the reason we failed to score, so yeah it might have ended 0-0! They played better than us and they deserved to win.

      • @AndyCR7: he was man marking scholes the whole match and fouled the shit out of him a few times. that is playing as a defender… he won them the ball then ran up front and knocked down longballs for himself and their only forward. all im trying to say is ddg was our best and fellani was their best. it doesnt matter how the match would have gone wo ddg. he saved us and fellani made them look good

        • @gator: Or may be without Jageilka who made some goal line clearances. Lets not take the credit away from Everton. They played well as a unit and were the better team that day.

  7. De Gea was excellent alright, but I thought he should have come out to collect the corner before Fellaini could unleash his powerful header. In my opinion, De Gea needs to improve his strength and often try to cut out crosses and corners – the only missing skill that, if mastered, would make him a formidable keeper.

  8. One reason I gave up analysing these games is the pain involved. There really is nothing to analyse to be honest. The poverty of our tech team is not just great, it’s amazing. How on earth do we still have such a poor technical team? Let’s be honest, most United fans now have something of a low self esteem. It’s heartbreaking. There was a time not many years ago, when we were the best team in Europe. It was United or Barca. Whilst many were concentrating on baseless issues like debt, many of us felt proud to be United. Many people don’t realise this, but we defined the attacking football of today. Noone had heard of “the front four”. We had Rooney, Tevez,Ronaldo and Nani/Giggs interchanging. Now the likes of Real Madrid in particular have 4 attacking players at a time.

    We once were pacesetters. Outmaneuvering teams like Barca, home and away. Now we’re just depending on players’ ability. Our players can keep possession, and our forwards for the most part, are clinical. But our football is rubbish. What a historical fall. What rubbish will Ferguson and Phelan manufacture for us next game? Many people used to complain about the “diabolical Americans” ruining our game. Well prove it. No doubt Kagawa is a fantastic signing. RvP is a fantastic signing. Nani is one of the most creative players in England. Only David Silva has challenged him in that department. David De Gea keeps proving his quality. We clearly have quality players. Individually, I think we possess the best attacking components in the league. Nani vs Nasri vs Mata? Nani. Silva vs Kagawa vs Hazard? Question mark but with Silva marginally ahead based on league experience. Rooney vs Balotelli vs Suarez vs Sturridge? Rooney. Aguero vs Torres vs RvP? Straightforward. Robin. It’s obvious we have great individual players but not a team. Or rather, not a great leadership. The rest of these teams know how to combine their individual talents optimally. We don’t.

    To me RvP is playing out exactly like Berbatov. You get the best forward in the league, late in the window. Declare, that you don’t know how to use him and prove it in his first game. Demoralise him and turn him into the season’s biggest flop. The fans turn on him, the manager casts him out. De ja vu. I’m hardly excited. Even an amateur can combine RvP,Nani,Kagawa and Rooney into the deadliest force in the league. It’s much harder combining Hazard,Torres and Mata due to their very central urges,grammar permitting.

    And for crying out loud, can we get some explanation for these perennial injuries. Two defenders fit, before the season even begins. How and where and when did Evans get injured? And Ferdinand? Come on, we were consoling ourselves that he’d be fit for the season at least after the Euros debacle. Yeah right. And Smalling? There’s definitely something wrong. How stupid the decision to limit Pogba looks. A makeshift defence definitely requires midfield cover. Right now, Sahin is being offered on loan apparently. Let’s get him. If we stick Carrick in defence at least don’t rely on Scholes and Cleverley.

  9. @ Jay wire, Sahin is reportedly joining Arsenal along with Mexes. i think Arsenal will still concede a lot of goals. BAck to us, i don’t think we are signing anyone else this summer. We will manage this squad until next summer, then bolster our central midfield. The issue is how do we win the title with this team. I firmly believe this team is good enough, i think the major problem is getting the central midfield pairing, right now i would go with Anderson and Cleverly. They have the legs and have quite a good understanding from what i recall from the beginning of last season. I would stick with the same back four until and a center back is fully fit- who would naturally come in for carrick. my major problem is what i spoke about in preseason and that is upfront. i loved Kagawa the other night but i would also love to see Rooney partnered with RVP, but how is possible. Nani or Young would have to be sacrificed.

    de gea- Vally Carrick Vidic Evra- CleverlyAnderson Kagawa- Nani Rooney Young- Van persie….. with rooney and kagawa interchanging as the game progresses. Two out of the midfield three options i listed

    • @One United: I don’t like sacrificing our best two players last season (Carrick and Valencia) out of position.

      With current injury crisis:
      ————- DDG ————

      At full strenght:
      sub Wooton for Ferdinand or Smalling.
      Interchange Scholes with Kagawa and sub scholes after 50-60 minutes.
      Let Chicharito, Hernandez and Welbeck fight it out for 3rd striker and sub with Rooney and RvP based on 65 minutes.

      • @opti- Fact is, i trust fergie.. For him to constantly play Carrick as a center back means Wooton is not good enough. In the past Fergie has played Brown, O’shea because he believed in them and their ability to step up. We will be fine defensively, we will ride the injuries, i’m sure of that.
        My main issue is the midfield and Kagawa, i fear he will be wasted in the center of midfield, the same way Anderson has been wasted playing in the center of midfield. In Gremio and Porto, he played the same position Kagawa plays. My biggest fear is Kagawa becomes the next Anderson and Van Persie becomes the next Berbatov

        • @One United: I can live with your logic here. In Fergie we trust since he knows all the players 100X better than we do!

  10. Fulham are omitting Dempsey, so at least that is one less worry for Saturday.

    PS: Despite the negativity, I cannot help but look forward to the game. United is my drug and I am an addict 😉

  11. Yeah. With RVP and Kagawa we have a serious technical upgrade in the quality of our squad. Unfortunately I don’t think the management has the tactical nous to get the best of them. And you do wonder if they are going to be on the same wavelength as players like Ashley Young, Tom Cleverley, Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, and Wayne Rooney who are very much in the blue collar class of players that traditionally characterise Manchester United.

    But of course that is the job of the management and coaching staff. To mesh a diverse group of players into a cohesive whole.

    And yes it is ridiculous that on the first game of the season we are forced to field two midfielders in defense. I cannot think of another club in the entire world that does that. Especially not a club that has on its roster FIVE centre backs.

    Also why don’t we ever take a chance on players like Vaselli?

    If we field a strong enough midfield you can get away with a weak defence. Barcelona are a testatement to that fact. I’d rather take advantage of these injury crises to blood a few youngsters than sacrifice Carrick and Valencia who are two of our best midfielders.

    • @colver: Barcelona can outscore any opposition, so they are a bad team to use as an example. I’m pretty sure the 07/08 team or was it the 09 team could do that., unfortunately we have regressed- now that should be the major worry. I stated then that you dont replace Ronaldo and Tevez with VAlencia and Owen oh and bebe. Ronaldo is a 45 goal a season player for heavens sake, Tevez is at least a 15 goal a season striker, and you replace them with Valencia and Owen…….. AND WE HAVE THE MONEY PEOPLE we spent at least 100 million pounds since ronaldos departure. I just think some of the buys have been poor.. i mean we havent bought any central midfielders in 5years. and we are still suffering for it today. I dont care what anyone says, i would have gladly traded Ronaldo for Robben, Sneijder and Vaart, i never would have paid 7.5 mill for bebe.. sorry i going off on one.. im just frustrated at the lack of quality in our midfield and the fact that fergie pampers wayne rooney. i Remember berbatov keeping us afloat when Rooney flirted with Madrid and SHhitty and this is the thanks he gets… its a cold world.
      Hazard looks a quality signing for chelsea ****just saying. Madrid is gonna come calling soon

  12. we’re being linked to hector herrara. didnt get to watch the olympics much, was he any good?

  13. Fergie is soo stubborn and stuck in his ways its fruastrating at times. i mean Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are 37 n 38 respectively. Name me another top club in world football that has a 37 and 38 year old playing for them, sometimes starting in the same midfield.

    DE GEA




    lindergaard Afterall Kagawa does cut in from the left flank for japan.

  14. Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher out

    Fellaini, Witsel, Dembele in

    i think our defense has enough cover, we are just desperately unlucky

  15. Yeah this defense situation is something for our coaching staff to answer for.

    But if we actually had cover for Carrick it wouldn’t matter if he had to occasionally deputize.

  16. While watching Real Madrid – Barca one can really see the ENORMOUS gap between United (us) and them. The gap is entirely technical too. What Madrid and Barca players can do with the ball is something United haven’t seen since Ronaldo, Hargo, Scholes and Giggs in their prime, and Beckham.

    This brings me to two points:
    1) I think Kagawa and RvP will get us closer to Barca/Madrid level, but as many on here have already highlighted, our coaching staff still lags FAR behind the other teams’ staff. Even if Fergie had Barca’s starting 11 at his disposal, we would not be as good as Barca are due to our coaching staff’s ineptitude.

    2) While Fergie has spoiled us with success over the past 20 years, I think Fergie has been spoiled as well with fantastic young and naturally gifted players in the 90s. In fact, I think having had Beckham, Giggs, Rio, and Scholes (and Ronaldo) available for starting 11 for such a long time has diluted his appreciation for technical coaching. This is why we (A) do not practice set pieces and (B) are sliding down the technical charts. Fergie could get away with it in the past (when Beckham, Hargo, and Ronaldo took set pieces), but now he is unable to pin-point the problem because it has infested our entire team and staff: we are nontechnical from Rooney/Chicharito down to Jones/Vidic/Fletcher.

    Oh well… what can fans do but rant and rave. Come on Saturday, be my happy day!!! 😕 8) 😉 😀

    • @Opti: There are some issues with the coaching – no doubt, but there are a lot of issues with the ball control skills of a lot of our players.
      Like you said Kagawa and RVP will help in that respect, but it’s now up to Rooney, Nani, Young etc. to raise their level of play to complement or exceed that of the new signings.
      I’ve thought for a few years now that there has been a degradated emphais put on individual skills. The passing, last season, was awful, and beyond any other reason, was responsible for our lack of success. It was prevalent and persistent and never got any better. Why was this not practiced more and why wasn’t players benched because of it??
      This made no sense. It was if the small matter of honing our players skills was a peripheral exercise that waas subservient to SAF’s main objective, Team unity.

      I am staggered at how Rooney has become a shadow of his former self, and how there seems no one to halt the slide. He appears to be totally untouchable regardless of his form. The coaching staff could make a start by saying if he’s not fit to start this season (once again) he should regain his fitness in the reserves. However the political ramification would doubtless create a rift between them, SAF and Glazer-pires.
      There seems to be tsar-ocracy of denial within the management and coaching staff. They care more about their own heads than they do about the club. And so the glaring holes that even the most amateur observer can see, are glossed over in favor of job security.

      I would wish it wasn’t so, but devil is in the details – and they all need to be exorcised.

  17. wow!! i wonder if theres a more negative bunch of united supporters anywhere on the internet…not a dig lads,but seriously…how can you not be excited at the prospect of watching a man utd front 4 of rooney,rvp,kagawa n nani(ando and cleverly behind them) tear the premier league a new anal cavity?? everton away was a bad performance but did we expect new tactics/players to gel right away?? i know we all hate the greedy Americans but why let that stop us from standing right behind our lads in the quest for tittle number 20?? and talking tactics,IMO this 4-2-1-3 that we played,will win us silverware come April/May.. 👿

    • @aliz: Ummm… who is NOT excited about Kagawa + RvP signing? Did anyone say “RvP and Kagawa suck and will do nothing good at United”??? Nope…

      We’re not all 10 year olds who only see red-tinted grass when United plays… we’re mostly adults who see major problems that need to be solved. The Everton game you bring up had EVERY sign of last years problems pasted all over it: poor passing, poor defending, disgraceful midfield performance exposed by Fellaini. Sure, Everton is tough, we have injuries, and RvP + Kagawa have not gelled yet… BUT
      has Evra improved from his 2-year slump?
      Is Scholes any better this year than last year?
      Is Rooney more fit than last season?
      Is Andesron or Cleverley the answer to our midfield?
      Has Welbeck improved since last season and can he stay on his feet for once?
      Why do we persistently get exposed to crazy many injuries?
      Why has it been 3 years since our last decent corner or throw-in?
      the same old cracks/fissures show up game and again and all we hear are excuses.

      The United team of 2007-2008 struggled in the beginning of the season with 3 consecutive draws, if you recall. However, no one was worried because United was created a wealth of chances every game and the goals would come (Giggs’ own words from the season review DVD). Today’s United can barely get a proper cross into the box and chances are at a premium — which is why Rooney suddenly has become a clinical striker (read: boring) where he once was far more creative and mobile.

      If you cannot find room to criticize United for its many current flaws, how can you appreciate it’s beauty and history? Is it all pretty and pink to you??? 🙄

      PS: This set of United supporters are not the most negative, just the most argumentative 😉

      • @Opti:
        nah mate its certainly not all pretty and pink and neither is anyone at the club beyond criticism.its well within our rights,buh dont you think there’s a fine line between criticism and pessimism? evra has been a bit shit for a while now,but haven’t we just recently bought a new LB in Alexander buttner? is he a bit shit as well, even though most of us on here haven’t seen him kick a ball? and no scholes is no better then last year.his legs are going and that showed against everton.who do u suggest we replace him with? if press reports are anything to go by,we’ve been looking to buy a world class cm for the last two seasons.none are available.fact is,we can neither match the glitz and glamor and sunny weather of Spain nor the spending power of suger daddy funded what do we do?? isnt buying young players and developing them into world class performers the united way? we bought nick powell,plus we have cleverly and anderson;i know most on here are of the view that they will never be good enough..looks like SAF begs to differ.not says they will better or even match scholes in terms of effectiveness on the pitch,but they could certainly prove to be more then capable to feed the ball to our extremely talented forward line.and as per my humble tactical know how,thats exactly whats required of the current specialized breed of centre mids in the now prevalent 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 formations.yes rooney looked a bit off the pace,but he’l get there and will probably finish with more goals then rvp.hes been less creative of late but fortunately now we wouldn’t require to rely on him providing the final ball all the time.i know most haven’t forgiven him for the contract debacle,thus love to hate him but come on lads,he is a world class player,he can be a shit at times;consistency is a problem for him,has always been so,but he is the best player we have and you have to be extremely biased to fail to see the qualities he brings to the table.and Welbeck WILL improve,hes still young isn’t he..arguably the best third choice striker in the league or at least the most talented…and i hope you are not suggesting the players or the staff in some way contribute to them crazy injuries.we have been terribly unlucky,and that’s that…

        P.S its just my opinion. i might be wrong,you might be right.all i am trying to say is that this season,of all seasons;gives us fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic…

      • @Opti: Nicely put Opti!!!! well done mate. @ Aliz ,do not mistake us “calling a spade a spade” as negativity. we are simply highlighting the problems. that does not mean we are negative. I implore you to come on here after we have played very well and you will witness most of us getting carried away with the positive performance furthermore Believe me when i say we are all excited with the acquisitions of Kagawa and RVP and we will be even more excited when they blossom as UNited players.

        • @One United:
          what problems are you talking about mate? long-term i.e the same old cracks and fissures as refered to by opti? or the short-term i.e the piss poor performance against everton…now heres what i honestly don’t understand,if most supporters on here are more concerned about the long-terms issues with the team,why would they get carried away after a positive performance?? and if the everton loss is viewed as one single game then how could WORLD CLASS players like rooney and nani warrant such blatant hate.ok hate might be a slight exaggeration but there are plently of comments on here calling them shit.surely a player who has scored 85 odd goals in the last three seasons alone cant turn shit overnight.
          now i believe there are weaknesses in the squad.that’d be obvious to a blind fool,but dont you think saf has made the right signings this summer to rectify most of them?? the way i see it,we are one ball winning centre mid short of being the most complete squad in Europe.maybe saf wants to give anderson one last chance or maybe Fletcher could again be the beast that he was three seasons back,surely he deserves a chance don’t u think? in 9 months time,we’ll know for sure.scholes and giggs will have retired and saf will go all out to buy the right midfielder…really quite simple isn’t it?? after all ‘hope’ is the last fire distinguished from the heart of man.. 😀

        • @aliz: Enjoy sunshine (short-term success), but always be aware of grey clouds (long-term problems) 😀

          OPTImism is my surname 😀

        • @aliz: Class is permanent, form is temporary and for Rooney and Nani their form is SPORADIC, hence they are often shit, despite being world class players.

          Welcome to RedRants! We’re happy to have you and your viewpoints!! More optimism is fresh!

        • @Opti:
          you are welcome mate.i’ve been a silent reader on here for about 4 years though.i see that grognard has gone but his doom and gloom aura still lingers..that’s understandable offcourse 😆

  18. I seriously think we have gone backwards since we appointed Mike Phelan at the club. The only real coach who understands the tactical and technical side of the game is Meulensteen which says alot about Sir Alex and Mike Phelan. Their main attribute is clear man management and psychology in terms of mental strenght and focus. There are by NO MEANS tactically or technically astute in comparison to Rene. Unfortunately only having one coach who know this side of the game is not enough. We can not continue to play a rigid 4-4-2 system and we should move to a more continental system such as the 4-2-3-1 or like we played the other night vs Everton, this is the only way forward.

    When Queiroz was our assistant and what Jay Wire rightly pointed out above, we had one of the most feared attacking 4 in world football. Back in 2008 we did play a very fluid 4-2-3-1 formation with the front 4 interchanging at will which resulted in them terrorizing defences left, right and centre! Why can’t we go back to playing that way? I mean we definately have the right players in place to do so now so why play continue to play an outdated system? If we want to compete consistently domestically and in europe then we seriously need to come up with a system which is fluid, unpredictable but at the same time solid and organised.

    Give this article a read guys, its about the tactical decline of United since Queiroz departed and as much as I hate to admit it, I think its spot on!

    Your views?

    • @Racs:

      Oh and I forgot to mention to RangeRooney that your tactical analysis of games are brilliant! So in depth and spot on! Keep it up buddy!

    • @Racs:
      mate if you re-watch the everton game,we did or atleast tried to do exactly that..i.e play 4-2-1-3(slight variation from the 08/07 team as we didn’t have a true playmaking number 10 like kagawa back then) especially after van persie came on,he rooney and nani/young were regularly interchanging and swapping positions with kagawa behind them…offcourse it didn’t really work very well,but thats understandable given the fact that both rvp and kagawa are new signings thus need time to gel..rooney and nani havin shockers didn’t help as well…but positive signs for the immediate future for sure.

      • @aliz:

        Agreed. I just really hope the team gels soon as it could turn out to be deadly and successful, ala season 07/08! I just hope the coaching staff realise that playing this sort of system (4-2-1-3 / 4-2-3-1) is definitely the way forward, there is just no doubt about it! I am really excited to see how we get on tomorrow and i am hoping for a rooney-kagawa-RVP link up tomorrow straight from the off! I really feel that kagawa is going to turn out to be our most consistent performer this season, his movement and awareness of space is awesome, his touch is insane and his vision is top drawer! I have no doubt he will improve under the tutelage of ferguson and will turn out to be one of the players of the season! He will also be fundamental within the 4-2-1-3 / 4-2-3-1 systems.

        With regards to my comments on declining tactically since the queiroz days, what do you think about that? Do you agree? Do you think we have gone backwards since then when it comes to our system and style of play?

        • @Racs:
          i know how most united fans tend to doubt saf’s tactical acumen.its hard to believe though.he is old fashioned for sure and a steady believer in 4-4-2 but if he weren’t tactically flexible,theres no way he’d have won us the trophies that he did over a time span of 25 years.the time Queiroz was at the club coincided with great wealth in terms of attacking talent.ronaldo,rooney and tevez in one team has got to be any manager’s wet dream.all three and positionally flexible and versatile.ronaldo,the best out of the three was arguably wasted as a traditional right winger,too good to not be infront of goal.rooney and tevez were both too similar to play as a strike partnership in a traditional we lacked two box-to-box centre mids who could contribute in both attacking thirds on the pitch.we switched to the most suited formation.4-2-3-1 doesnt required centre mids to essentially be box to box.they have specialized roles and playing as two deep lying playmakers without too much lateral movement suited both carrick and the attacking 4 had the flexibility to interchange and swap.switching to 4-2-3-1 was simply a case of getting the best out of the players available.then we went on to lose two out of the three most vital players in our new formation.we replaced ronaldo with a more traditional right winger and berba wasn’t exactly suited to play a high tempo game which required great mobility and work rate.again,horses for courses;we switched to the best suited formation which was a regression of sorts but cannot be blamed on the departure of Queiroz and the ineptitude of the coaching staff that proceeded we have the right players again…i jus realized the 4-2-1-3 we played agaisnt everton is even narrower on the wings as atleast two out of the front three are centre forwards.playing tony V at RB and buying probably the most attacking LB i’ve seen in recent years(as per youtube vids i must admitt)makes so much more sense as fullback position is where the width will come from…saf said carrick is key,hes spot on..he really is.even more then past seasons.hes the only centre mid in our squad capable of plugging the gaps left by adventurous fullbacks..

    • @AndyCR7: Im glad tbh. Id hate to see someone like sahin, martinez or m’villa coming in and stunting the likes of giggs or scholes development. These 2 will be quality if theyre just given the opportunity to show what they can do.
      Got to give them some serious game time or we’ll end up losing them 😉 🙄 😐 😥

      • @tonymontanna4united:

        You’re being sarcastic right?????

        We need to keep up with the times mate and such players like Martinez or M’Vila is exactly the player we need in the middle of park especially if we are to compete in Europe

        • @Racs: 😆 😆 Yes mate, i love scholes and giggs as much as the next guy, but i was just making light of fergie and his refusal to buy a midfielder. Especially with his rather silly comments last season regarding pogba and giving him game time.

      • @tonymontanna4united:
        nicely done..but we have cleverly,anderson and powell as well mate…if sahin and m’villa were a significant improvement,we’d be in for them don’t u think..? and we’d have had hellava better chance compared to freakin le arse and liverpoo!!! Martinez on the other hand is quality but unavailable..he’ll probably end up playing centre back for barca..

        • @aliz: Id be quite happy to see some of the youngsters given their chances mate.
          I know he splits opinion, but im actually a big admirer of cleverley and think hes got a lot of impressive attributes in his locker, if used in the right system with the right partner next to him, and i also think without getting carried away, that young powell will be a very good player too (again dont want to get carried away but he certainly looks to have some gerrardesque attributes from what ive seen of him).
          Thats without even mentioning young tunnicliffe who people on here will tell you, im a massive admirer of, and would absolutely love to see getting some game time this season.
          Ive learned however that these days, giving the kids their chances are strictly refined to the odd carling cup game and 10 minutes here and there.
          Atleast until they hit the age of 22/23 when they might be under consideration if scholes is in need of a rest after 30 consecutive games or anderson has injured himself after sitting on his fat ass for so long (i definitely dont rate anderson as you might have guessed).
          I had such high expectations for pogba, i really felt he was nailed on to make it here. Seeing him this weekend, bossing the midfield against milan just reinforces those beliefs.
          The kid was tailor made for that midfield of ours.
          And yet but for a grand total of 20 minutes over the course of the season, we plumped for any number of options ahead of him, including park and a right back in rafael, and we act surprised when the kid thinks he might be better of moving elsewhere?
          All that saga showed in the end was as long as scholes and giggs are around, the young players at this club will have to make do sitting around forever, waiting for the odd 10 minutes and being happy with that.
          And that for me is not only hugely annoying, but it also shows an incredible lack of forward thinking, and ends up leaving us having to make do with the same old same old of giggs, scholes, fletcher again, which has proved time and time again is no longer good enough for a team of our stature.
          So no mate, i cant feel optimistic about any of this. Because i know when push comes to shove, it’ll be giggs and scholes at the front of the queue once again, and once again the same old problems will be obvious and we’ll go into yet another season whereby we leave the midfield lacking again.
          Unfortunately its just a trait of fergies that has always been there, but one that has only become obvious in the last few years.
          For example, did you know in between signing keane in 1993, it was 8 years before we signed another midfielder in veron in 2001 (fortune was signed in 99 but he was a jack of all trades really, not a proper midfielder).
          Fair enough that was a time when we had an abundance of top class midfielders, so it was hardly a problem, but the point remains.
          Fergie has always disregarded this area of the team, and whilst his trusted lieutenants, giggs, scholes and fletcher are around, will continue to do so.
          Thats just an unfortunate fact really.
          A shame, as i think our business this summer has been really quite encouraging, especially the kagawa and rvp signings.
          But without that midfielder, im afraid it’ll still leave me concerned going into the new season.
          Particularly in europe.

        • @tonymontanna4united:
          agree with most of what you’ve said.i honesty hope both scholes and giggs hang their boots up for good by the end of this campaign,as Manchester united legends..lets see if Fletcher can come back from the dead and produce that form from three years back,if not then as much as it pains me to say this,goodbye to him as well.for anderson too its a make or break season.if he cant prove his doubters wrong in the next 9 months,he never will…in that case saf will have no option but to finally buy the new centre mid,not just to shore up the numbers but also to add that missing ingredient from our midfield i.e ball winning ability and physical presence…i am sure he will.

  19. I just watched AGAIN Kagawa in the Everton game, and that lad if fookin fantastico. He was making through balls, to put our forwards beyond the back line, with such precision and well timed passing, he should be a freakin surgeon. His technical process is as good as Scholesy when he was same age as Kagawa, I cannot give Kagawa any higher accolade than that. Oh that we had strikers who did not 90% of the time let the ball run away from them by having a lousy first touch, or worse, getting into the box, being found by an excellent pass, and falling over you feet on to the floor all the fookin time ALA Welbeck. I am going to start a count on how many times Welbeck falls down at vital times in the area, and recommend him for champion fall guy of this season 🙄 😆

    • @Craig Mc: I got the feeling watching him that he was too clever for his team mates to understand him.
      Hes just a level above anyone else we had in the team before the introduction of van persie.
      Welbeck, nani and in particular rooney, just didnt get what the guy was trying to do ie he tried to limit aimlessly passing out wide as much as possible in favour of little one twos and through balls through the middle.
      It was only when welbeck came inside more that we saw him become a danger and as a result kagawa spotted him and presented him with some chances (1 of which was a sitter he should have finished).
      Only one game in, but why do i get the feeling that kagawa isnt going to fully realise his talent here.
      Nothing to do with him personally i might add, but i just worry he’s on a different wavelenght to his team mates.
      At somewhere like arsenal for example he’d suit them and their system down to the ground and become world class, but here with our insistance that everything goes through the wings?
      I dont know. I just hope we dont see him end up being shifted out wide (not even in a free role like silva at city which could work with him) because its very clear after only a few games that this kid is bloody quality.
      Nice to see too isnt it craig us adapting to the times. Fergie had never signed an attacking midfieder during his reign, but with times changing he adapted and got us kagawa.
      Now he tells us we’ve never had a proper DM (i dont agree personally) and wont see one during his reign. Hopefully thats something we see change in the near future (although weve been hoping that for years).
      We’ll see.

      • @tonymontanna4united: Yeah mate, I think maybe playing with players like chicharito and Berba, maybe yet with RVP also, might be better switched on to Kagawa’s totally brilliant game. I hope Fergie is not going to stick with Rooney alongside RVP if it doesn’t work. Although that is Fergie’s MO isn’t it, Manchester United the team of square pegs in round holes mentality. Blessed be the day when we actually get to see again, MU players, playing in their natural positions! Maybe when Fergie leaves in 2 years eh?

  20. Rooney will be fine once he gets up and running. He gets slated a lot on here but he is actually a very intelligent footballer and is admired all across the continent. He’s been forced into a fairly limited role the last few seasons because we needed a goalscorer and he stepped up to the plate admirably. But when given a bit more freedom he’ll show the other aspects of his game. Maybe the new signings will help him regain enthusiasm for his football because he’s seemed a bit jaded the last couple of years.

    Hernandez has excellent timing and the pace to get on the end of Kagawa’s slide rule passes.

    The main problem is adapting our tactics to incorporate Kagawa’s abilities.

    For so long our modus operandi is for our central midfielders to play deep, soak up pressure, win the ball and spread the ball wide.

    Now we have a new option of playing through the middle but to do that we need to win the ball higher up the pitch, which means we need midfielders who can tackle, and we need our wingers to cut inside.

    A good sort of template is Barcelona in 2011. They absolutely murdered us and looked ten times better than in 2009. And the main difference was that as well as controlling possession the way they always do, with the width that Pedro and Villa gave them and their ability to cut inside they were able to exploit gaps in our defence and we just couldn’t handle it.

  21. Incidentally CraigMc I also have the premonition that RVP Rooney and Kagawa in the same team isn’t going to work. At least without one of them getting shunted out wide and losing a lot of effectiveness.

  22. Lads,

    Just wanted to get your views on today’s game in terms of what system of play SAF will use for the game as well as the starting line up. Score prediction also.

    I am inclined to think that SAF will utilise a 4-4-2 formation purely because of the fact that we are playing at home. I do however hope that he follows on from the Everton game and continues to try out the 4-2-1-3 formation. Here is my prediction with regards to starting 11 and system of play:

    De Gea
    Rafael Vida Carrick Evra

    Scholes Clevers

    Tony V Rooney


    Rafael should be back for the game after his Olympics outing which will allow Tony V to play in his natural position and where he is most effective taking on their LB in 1v1 situations as well as pinging in crosses which he is very good at. Width from the left side will come from Paddy due to the fact that Rooney will be playing on the left side with licence to cut in to support RVP as well as interchanging with him. Kagawa will clearly be given the free role behind RVP in the attacking phase while at the same time helping out the midfield when in the defensive phase. He is a true workhorse so I don’t see a problem with him being able to carry out both functions. I also see him interchanging with Rooney on occasions as he is very capable of playing on the left side of the front 3 like he did with Dortmund and also with Japan. Scholes will do what he does best and will be deployed as deep lying playmaker with Cleverley beside him as our box to box midfielder and also linking the midfield with the attack along with Kagawa. It will be very interesting to see the link up play and fluidity between Rooney, RVP and Kagawa and if it does work well, we could be in for a treat. I know its early doors however as mentioned in comments above between myself and aliz, it has the potential of becoming something great once this system of play has been tried and tested consistently along with the fact that Kagawa and RVP are still blending in with the team. I would also like to see a change in the way we play whereby we adopt a more possession based approach rather than being so direct. United have always played with width and fast paced counter attacking play however I have a feeling we will be changing it up and more so with the change in formation. I think there are exciting times ahead guys.

    My prediction for tomorrow will be a 3-1 win for United.


    • @Racs: I like ANYTHING with Kagawa/RvP/Rooney in the starting 11 😀

      Prediction: 4-2. RvP Rooney Kagawa scores. Evra will struggle and Buttner will debut.

      T-12 hours!!!!

      • @Opti: OK when I look into the crystal ball I see us eking a 1-0 win. Heroic performance from Vidic to save us, Rooney subbed at 70mins with Welbeck, and RVP nodding one in at around 30mins.
        Evra fights off the competition and Kagawa has a better link-up with Welbeck than he did with Rooney.

        Oops, sorry for that on a Friday night!!

  23. I am surprised at high expectation from fan. United was struggling when we played non 442 formation. Fergie usually test new tactic at the start o0f season. It seems players do not know exactly what they need to do in formation, Everton stayed same tactic so there is no confusion.

    I am not sure Fergie will use same 4213 what so ever, but we at least watch couple of more games to say some meaningful comments.

  24. we are playing fulham whats wrong with 4 2 4
    de gea
    rafeal vidic carrick evra
    scholes clevs
    vally kagawa
    rooney rvp

    This way rooney and rvp can form a lethal partnership, and kagawa wont be neuterlised as he can be given a free role?

  25. How do we let Liverpool pick up Sahin for £7 million.

    He’d have been perfect cover for Carrick in Fletcher’s absence.

  26. Out of curiosity why are all the teams you guys putting up leaving out Anderson? In Carrick and Fletcher’s absence he is the closest we have to a defensive midfielder and he always seems to start the season strongly.

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