Cautious, slow, robotic and attritional are just some of the adjectives associated with Manchester United’s play. Stats such as 9 goals in 6 home matches and just 2 1st half goals at Old Trafford so far this season, further emphasize how far LVG’s United are from the other teams past.
Be that as it may, that’s United’s play this season, at least until LVG is for some reason shown the backdoor, because fact is results have been so good irrespective of the team’s play.
Recently, as though not all season, United have struggled in attack. Goalless draws in United’s matches is often nearly the bookies bet. Below are the solutions that could end MUFC’s struggles in attack, within LVG’s ‘feelosofee’-‘had to come out’.
Build-up play down the flanks: In this ultra- competitive league, especially this season’s version, opponents visiting OT, will be damned if they did just allow, United to waltz through the middle and score, especially when players such as Rooney, Martial, Mata, Depay should score an absolutely worldie, without too much wrong on their part (Individual brilliance). That’s the more reason why build-up has to be on the flanks. After all, in this rigid, possession based system, with central players, DMs static to screen the back 4 against counterattacks, the onus surely is on the wide players to help transition the team into attack. Anytime the play has been developed play down the flanks, United have looked predictable but purposeful in attack. Going through the middle results in a lot of break down in attacks.
Be decisive in the final 3rd: How often we see Darmian finally get played in behind the defence, after elaborate, slow build-ups and the OT faithful screaming ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, only for him to misdirect a cross. Quite simply United have got to make every attacking situation count especially when there is a real struggle to create even half decent chances. Rooney is always intent on recycling or spreading play to the flanks, though he could really do more to affect the score by testing the goalie with precision shots. The least said about Depay the better; always cutting infield to shoot as though it’s the newest trick, an opposition right back is yet to see.
Attack as a Unit: Honestly it’s no surprise to see United in behind the defence, with the ball on flanks but with no or just a single player in box, surrounded by 4 opposition players!! Only one sure outcome then, when the ball does make it into the box. Playing in a system where runs from Carrick, Bastian or Schneiderlin is ‘forbidden’, the attacking four surely need to be telepathic in attack. Hold-up play is a very important tool in this system. Attackers have got to be more protective of the ball at feet, to allow others move into right positions to continue the attack. Quite often, when Mata has the ball dead at feet on the right flank, Darmian overlaps him in behind the defence to carry out the next phase of attack. But also what you would see, is the AMC making no attempt to make a run into the box. In the 3-0 win at Everton, immediately Rojo had the ball on the flank, after an advantage to United after a foul on Martial, Rooney made a near post run drawing Stones away and Herrera made a run into the box to take advantage of the space in between the Jagielka and Stones…..BOOM!!! 2-0.; an example of beautiful, predictable but simple attacking play.
Weirdly, with all the groans and moans about our play, we are 2nd (after 14 matches) and well in with a chance at winning the league, mainly due to fantastic team spirit and water-tight defence. Credit to LVG for resolving the defensive and midfield issues and transforming Smalling into Smal-dini!!!. But as long as attacking issues persist, United may very well start preparing for the battle for 4th!!!!