AFC BOURNEMOUTH vs MANCHESTER UNITED
12.12.2015

Not a very good week for United supporters and Van Gaal as the exit from the Champions League has drawn a sharp focus onto his short management career at United. Are United treading through treacle on their way to realising Van Gaal’s philosophy soon? Will he get the time to prove it can still work?

PERSONNEL

In: Carrick, McNair and Borthwick-Jackson.
Out: Smalling, Darmian and Schweinsteiger.

KEYPOINTS

  • Can United play like they did for most of the first half all the way through the whole of a game? The tempo in the first half was good but as usual it died down in the second half when Bournemouth sat deeper and played more on the break.
  • Again United looked suspect at set pieces; the free kick that Bournemouth’s scored from was very clever with the block on Blind but United should be wise to this. United need a defensive leader especially to address the 72-28% deficit on aerial duels. United conceded two goals from corner situations in a single game for the first time since January 2014 v Chelsea.
  • What’s Memphis’s best position to receive the ball? Is it for him to run onto or play into? He didn’t do particularly well at either.
  • The desperation to get back into the game as the half wore on made Fellaini’s substitution all the stranger. He was actually having one of his better games.
  • Although he didn’t have an amazing game McNair was often seen bringing the ball out.
  • Martial is working hard but with very little to feed off. Mata and Memphis didn’t do as much as they could have here. It was the moments of individual skill that stood out from Martial.

FIRST HALF

Not the start envisaged as Bournemouth scored an early goal direct from a corner which was helped by the strong wind. United were on the back foot. Should Fellaini have been goal side of the central striker thus allowing De Gea to concentrate on flight of the ball?

Bournemouth goal direct from a corner

Bournemouth goal direct from a corner

After this setback the formations settled; United 4-4-2 and Bournemouth 4-2-3-1 as United showed lots of movement to make for a quick paced game.

First half shapes

First half shapes

The sentimentalists would have noted the width from Lingard on the right (often in lots of space) and Memphis and Borthwick-Jackson on the left. There were a number of decent exchanges which pulled Bournemouth about. This led to the diagonal out ball to the left from Carrick.

It was good to have Carrick back in the team as he partnered Fellaini. When Fellaini plays here he usually detaches from his partner and ventures forward; it was no different in this game as the Belgian sought space on the left. There were times when Carrick should perhaps have been more forceful attacking the space in front of him as Bournemouth were being pushed back.

The front man Martial, should have put United level but was guilty of missing a great chance. Bournemouth tended to give the ball away and this played into United’s hands and positive pressing and circulation of the ball caused problems.

Boom! 1-1 on 24 minutes after a slightly comical goal by Fellaini which came about from a great pass from Carrick. His pass as controlled by Memphis who forced the goalkeeper to commit. Fellaini picked up the pieces and bundled the ball in after his first effort was blocked.

Boom! Fellaini goal

Boom! Fellaini goal

Another injury blow came when Lingard went off after 31 minutes to be replaced by Pereira after. This was after Lingard had spent some time on the left stretching the right back Smith.  The injury to Lingard was unfortunate as United’s play was balanced before the change whereas Pereira was more impetuous with a tendency to come inside and give away stupid fouls.

Carrick continued the long diagonal ball to the left.

Bournemouth looked dangerous on the break though as they were quick and neat with their passing and they let United off by their lack of quality on a few occasions.

SECOND HALF

After half time Bournemouth switched to a 4-3-2-1 formation whilst United tweaked the forward line with Memphis now up front and Martial to the left; they regularly swapped their positions. This may have been to overcome Bournemouth doubling up on Memphis however, his movement was too often towards midfield, receiving ball with back to opponent.

Another early setback and another set piece saw United go behind with a goal from King on 54 minutes. Bournemouth must be applauded for their craft on the set piece, but United were asleep.

Bournemouth played much more compactly for a period and as a result that long ball from the first half didn’t work. United found it difficult to find space, beat the press and break the home team down.

The scorer, King was replaced by Murray on 65 minutes and he stayed out left; he should have added to their lead.

United’s defence dropped too deep and the gap between the defence and the midfield was far too big and this allowed Bournemouth many opportunities to get past United and at our defence, for example the right back Smith had a lot f opportunity to do this.

Second half shape late in the game

Second half shape late in the game

Was the Fellaini substitution slightly bizarre considering the desperation of United’s play at the end? Powell replaced him after 74 minutes. Would it have been better to keep him on as a target man? Jones replaced McNair in added time, another injured defender?

CONCLUSION

The first half was good to watch and United were very good against a team high on their own victory against Chelsea last week. There was plenty of movement and the width was pleasing and with Carrick’s often diagonal ball they enjoyed much success in the first half.

Carrick passing

Carrick passing

Unfortunately United played very differently in the second half as they struggled to break down a compact opponent. Bournemouth were much more varied in their overall formation giving them more presence against United’s more linear positioning.

Bournemouth shape

Bournemouth shape

This opponent appeared to be much more driven and willing to break the lines. Their dedication to playing a short and quick passing game particularly from the back was impressive.

Varela and Borthwick-Jackson were more subdued than on Tuesday evening but did OK. Mata had a quiet game and needs to do more. Manchester United’s starting line-up was their sixth youngest in Premier League history (an average of 24 years 131 days) and their youngest since May 2014 v Hull (24 years 82 days).