Club 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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