PARIS ST GERMAIN vs MANCHESTER UNITED
After three wins on tour United moved on to Chicago hoping for a fourth win to complete a clean sweep of pre-season victories. More importance was fitness and performance and after a good performance against Barcelona this would be another good test.
The only change from the starting eleven in the previous game against Barcelona was the introduction of Schweinsteiger replacing Schneiderlin in the midfield. The shape remained unchanged; a 4-2-3-1. Paris St Germain lined up in a 4-3-3 with Veratti and Matudi in midfield ahead of Stambouli. Ibramovic played as the centre forward.
United started this game well and for the first 20 minutes or so gave as good as they got. Both teams had chances and perhaps Paris St Germain had slightly more clear cut chances but it was fairly even. United kept the ball well, circulated it in their defensive half and in midfield but didn’t open the opposition up convincingly. Chances when they came were half chances.
The point of interest in this first half was the midfield. Generally United played a fairly high line, but Carrick was usually ahead of Scweinsteiger and did not look comfortable. As Paris St Germain advanced from the back Carrick could often be seen pushing almost as high as Depay and Rooney as he looked to close down Verratti or Stambouli. He did not look comfortable doing this as unlike say Herrera he does not have the pace to press effectively in high areas and once the play has moved behind him he struggles to get back goal side.
Despite this United were relatively comfortable until the first goal. This was a defensive mistake. Jones was asleep and had allowed Matuidi to get goal side, he was exposed by a long ball behind United’s high line. Shaw tried to get across but only succeeded in adding to the chaos as De Gea came out and stopped as Matuidi poked the ball past all three United players from the edge of the box. Indecision was final.
Paris St Germain were now clearly on top but United did not fold and could have made it to half time but for another error on 32 minutes. Ibrahimovic broke in the inside left channel before feeding Maxwell on the overlap. He put in a low cross into the path of Ibrahimovic ; no-one had tracked his run on after he had pushed the ball wide and he had time and space to side foot past De Gea. Everyone was ball watching as they retreated.
Despite concerns about United’s defending it should be stated that the problems are principally in central defence. Both Darmian and Shaw have been excellent on this tour and were again excellent in this game. They were solid in defence and both on occasions made threatening runs forward. In early games when Darmian came forward his combination play and delivery seemed disjointed but there were signs here that this is improving as he develops an understanding with those around him.
At half-time Van Gaal replaced De Gea with Johnstone, Schweinsteiger with Schneiderlin and Young with Pereira. Paris St Gemain also made several changes including a change of shape to a 4-4-2 introducing Cavani to partner Ibrahimovic.
Of course whilst United had to now chase the game Paris St Germain could afford to look to contain. They did just that, pressing United in high areas and passing the ball around quickly and with some confidence when they had the ball. Pereira was playing in a fairly narrow position on the left and Mata was similarly narrow on the right. This left lots of opportunities for them to push the ball square into the wide areas rather than push the ball forward quickly as they had tended to do in the first half.
In midfield Carrick and Schweinsteiger were fairly level in their positioning most of the time, each taking it in turns to be the player pushing forward.
The second half was relatively unremarkable. At times United played some good football but made very little impression on their opponents who looked comfortable. United’s final ball was usually disappointing.
On 65 minutes United made a double substitution replacing Shaw with Valencia and Jones with Smalling. The fullback change was interesting as Valencia went to right back and Darmian switched to left back. Darmian had been playing well on the right and looked equally accomplished on the left.
On 80 minutes Sean Goss replaced Carrick and Lingard replaced Mata. Lingard tended to play wider than Mata on the right and Goss was generally to the left and further forward than Schneiderlin who dropped slightly deeper. The game petered out.
- Pre-season is about fitness, developing an understanding with new and old teammates, working on tactical strategies and “match rhythm” rather than results. But the result here tells a tale. The areas of concern are central defensive frailties and a potential lack of clinical sharpness in attack.
- You could add midfield balance to that, but United have recruited well in this area and no doubt it is just a matter of time before Van Gaal resolves issues of compatibility between players.
- Carrick and Scweinsteiger are both players who like to play at the base of the midfield with the action ahead of them. Are they two similar to be compatible as a double pivot?
- Currently the full-backs can be exempted from any criticism of the defence.
- Paris St Germain with a two goal lead controlled the second half and always looked comfortable. United looked slightly jaded and second half was therefore a bit of a non-event.