LEICESTER CITY vs MANCHESTER UNITED
A Leicester side top of the table prior to City’s win was booming and Vardy was a game away from making Premier League history. United were coming off the back of an abject performance against PSV in mid-week. Was this a recipe for disaster for the Reds?
In: MacNair, Carrick, Mata and Young.
Out: Rojo, Schneiderlin, Lingard and Memphis.
- During the first half United were pulled in a number of directions by Leicester’s movement in the third block of the field.
- United looked much better at set pieces that of late. This was a strength.
- Rooney and Martial played on top of each other and the latter found that his surging runs were often stifled because of this.
- Only one substitution during the game from Van Gaal, which is unusual.
- There is not enough activity in and around the 6 or even 18 yard box from United this season and this game was no different.
Van Gaal opted for a 3-5-2 to perhaps, address the way Leicester utilise the speed and cunning of Vardy in the half spaces. This formation attempted to clog the midfield in the defensive phase to reduce the number of balls that could be played through the channels between players.
Both teams played their part in an exciting early section of the half offering pace and movement. But through Okazaki, who occupied the space behind Vardy Leicester appeared to make the more headway when in possession.
United played their part but were more erratic in their formation and the back three of Blind, Smalling and McNair didn’t combine tremendously well with the two in front of them, Schweinsteiger and Carrick. Leicester’s movement was much more focused and simpler, more direct. It was summed up in the counter attack following a poor United corner (although United were generally better at set pieces here than usual) and the way Leicester broke was frustrating for the Reds. This saw Leicester score first in the 24th minute. As they broke Carrick could have got across quicker but perhaps the only choice he felt he had was to chaperone Fuchs and await his colleagues.
The distance Fuchs ran with the ball afforded Vardy the opportunity to hold his run across the line of Young and Darmian and strike across De Gea.
There was two issues with this, firstly, Young and Darmian didn’t communicate properly both visually and vocally in trying to hold the line and secondly De Gea has to take blame for the way he angled his body at the moment of the strike. He was too narrow a shape and opened the goal for Vardy.
Although 1-0 down United weren’t down and out, they always looked capable of getting back into it. They were showing good movement and this helped them score an equaliser through Schweinsteiger just before half time.
In the lead up United were clearly narrow in a 3-2-3-2 but not to the detriment of their performance. Again this goal demonstrated United’s strength at set pieces coming as it did from a corner. Schweinsteiger showed great strength and determination to out-muscle Okazaki and head home from close range. Boom!
United came out stronger in the second half, continuing the good movement seen late in the first half and creating better deliveries from set pieces whilst being much more assertive in their approach, the greatest success coming down the right chiefly through Darmian. They also were much more focused on marking Okazaki out of the game.
However some of the bad habits seen lately came to the fore as the game progressed, notably a lack of coherence between the United midfield and forwards despite them being relatively close to each other.
This became the for-bearer to a decline in movement up front. Rooney who often found himself on the left found few opportunities to make key passes and he was replaced through injury on xx minutes by Memphis. Also not helping matters was the fact that both Schweinsteiger and Carrick did not get far enough forward to support the forwards, instead remaining cautiously deep. At least one of them needs to step out.
It was a concern to see how much space Fuchs had and how easy Vardy cut through the defence and across De Gea for the Leicester goal. This goal put how slow United have become squarely into focus. How do you get a United player to play on the last defender as Vardy does? Is that what Van Gaal wants anyway? The lack of activity in the 18 yard box suggests that he doesn’t.
The statistics above may suggest that United were dominant but Leicester on the whole were much more economical with the ball and with the score at 1-1 what does greater possession and pass completion actually count for? 10-7 on shots in United’s favour again means nothing without winning. It brings to mind the recent comments by Chile’s Copa America winning coach Jorge Sampaoli after their recent match against Uruguay. ,
“One night, I went to a bar; I was with a woman. We talked all night. We laughed, we flirted, I paid for several drinks of hers. At around 5 am, a guy came in, grabbed her by the arm and took her to the bathroom. He made love to her and she left with him. That doesn’t matter, because I had most of the possession on that night.”
Chile lost the game despite having 73 per cent possession in the match.