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Match Analysis – United vs. Spurs

Man United vs Spurs

This past weekend we watched Manchester United travel to White Heart Lane to play Tottenham. According to league stats, United has only lost 1 time to the Spurs in the last 24 meetings. The match would end a draw at 2-2 with a few ups and a few downs. With RVP still out of the line up we started with a promising 4-4-2 formation.


Evra – Vidic – Evans – Smalling


Welbeck – Jones – Cleverly – Valencia


Kagawa ( dropped just behind Rooney in the #10 spot) – Rooney


1st Half Thoughts:

The first half was well played by both sides. Early in the game we saw the immediate impact of Kagawa in the center of the park. His creativity and vision on the field allow him to make good penetrating passes through the opposing defense and is able to make space for himself in key positions on the field. I love that Kagawa has a similar work rate of Rooney when in the #10 position – He tracks opponents, shows to each side of the field to receive the ball, and is always looking to play a threatening ball past defenders.

Manchester United enjoy a style of play (in a brief summary) where the backs tend to connect with the center midfielders who in turn look to connect to their speed down the wings to play diagonal balls in to the forwards in front of goal. This was very apparent in the first half as Valencia was able to apply a lot of pressure to the Tottenham defense. This pressure was slightly relieved after the 18′ minute goal scored by Walker. For anyone who wasn’t able to see it, the ball was driven on the ground right underneath the wall with a lot of pace. De Gea was late to see the ball as it traveled under the wall and the result was 1-0 to Tottenham. Often times the players in the wall are criticized for either jumping, or not jumping at all. Either way, it’s difficult to say if having the wall jump, was a tactic called for by De Gea or pre planned by the coaching staff depending on the player taking a kick against them. One popular tactic I’ve come across in my playing time is that if you do jump in the wall, to keep your toes pointed downward should a low ball be driven towards goal. It seems that we have become used to seeing Manchester concede early goals through mental slips this season, but I do believe we are beginning to find our feet.

It wasn’t until the 32′ minute where United were able to pull level with a great cross from Phil Jones that took a fortunate touch towards Wayne Rooney in the center of the net, who wasn’t going to miss. It wasn’t until this point that I soon saw a tactical change by Moyes. Kagawa was shifted out to the left wing, Rooney was dropped back into his familiar #10 spot, and Welbeck was pushed up front. Welbeck, who isn’t a natural winger, tends not to track back all the way and at times left Evra facing more pressure than he would like. I just felt that this formation change threw off the chemistry of the team. I tend to think that Welbeck, while incredibly skilled, does not work as hard as players like Ashley Young or Chicharito, who would later come on for Danny in the second half. He did well to show for a ball around the 42′ minute and played Valencia behind the defense but didn’t take off sprinting to join the attack. It was almost as if he had “done his job” and jogged forward in support.

I feel the tactical change isolated Shinji to the left side of the park where he saw less of the ball, in turn affecting the so far successful connection he was having combining with Rooney.

2nd Half Thoughts:

The second half started, keeping with the same tactical changes the first half finished on. With Kagawa out wide he just seemed to fade out of the game. Again we saw early threats from Tottenham as the crowd got into the game early on in the second half. With an amazing strike by Sandro in the 54′ minute, United was again behind in the game but found themselves in a situation to reply  3 minutes later as the Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris brought down Welbeck in the box.

The counter attacking, team shape, and discipline on each side was enjoyable to watch with hard defending and quick passing in the attacking and defending thirds of the field.

Each team seemed to bunker slightly with the score line level at 2-2 until nearing the end of the game. Moyes incorporated Young into the game for Shinji, Chicharito in for Welbeck, and Nani for Valencia that added some last minute pace to the game. United’s game was much more threatening when the ball was pushed outside to the wingers who could take the ball downfield and cross it in across the goal.

If you can tell by the writing, I was far more impressed with our first half performance than our second. United still have a lot of work to do to seal the holes in the defense, and to fully click in the midfield.

For now, we will look forward to Everton vs. Manchester United 12/4/2013 – Back at Home, Old Trafford!

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