MIDJTYLLAND vs MANCHESTER UNITED
18.02.2016

After a brighter performance and a win at Derby, United returned to League action at Old Trafford and a mid-week fixture against Stoke City. This was a key opportunity to not only build upon their previous performance but also to look to push on in pursuit of a top four place.

PERSONNEL

In: Romero, Love, McNair, Herrera and Memphis.
Out: De Gea, Borthick-Jackson, Darmian, Schneiderlin and Rooney.

KEYPOINTS

  • This was a performance which lacked any belief and seemingly any desire. There’s a lack of strength when holding the ball up so any attempt to transition from defence to attack was lost with the defence sitting too deep. The United midfield were too passive and this contributed to the pressure they invited onto themselves and the defence.
  • United were not great in possession, often giving the ball away; there was not enough running off the ball to give the player on the ball options.
  • Sisto caused United’s defence a lot of problems; he played across the line and showed pace and tenacity. When teams drive at United’s defence they struggle. United showed poor positioning when responding to Midtjylland’s counter attacks.
  • After playing relatively high in the first half the United fullbacks stayed much deeper in the second half. There were a few occasions when space on the left hand side was crying out for Blind to attack.
  • Romero played well, deputising for De Gea at the last minute.

FIRST HALF

Midtjylland set up in a 4-3-2-1 shape allowing them to defend as a 4-5-1 whilst United set up in their usual 4-2-3-1 line up with Blind and Love as fullbacks positioned very wide. In the middle of Midtjylland’s 3 was their captain Sparv who had an aggressive approach and closely followed many players, Mata in particular. There was however a passive nature about United’s performance which was a concern but not a surprise.

First half team shapes

First half team shapes

After a quiet start United came into the game and controlled it reasonably well. There was a glimpse of innovation with a nice free kick idea between Mata and Memphis where the Spaniard ran to the wall then darted away causing one of the Midtjylland players to split the wall and Memphis struck through the gap.

United were in danger of going behind as Martial lost the ball following a chance and United’s defending was all at sea with a counter then quickly after Romero’s fine save United got the ball out wide and Lingard played a ball into Memphis. He did well to put it home, Boom! 1-0 on 37 minutes.

United goal

United goal

With the good comes the bad with Memphis at the moment, and one of his main weaknesses is that he isn’t strong enough when holding play up or attempting to prevent a player passing him by.

There was not enough movement between the players off the ball after the goal and the desire levels noticeably dropped.

Sisto goal

Sisto goal

As halftime approached United were looking relatively composed though, but they then conceded after Carrick gave the ball away cheaply to Sisto who attacked and skipped past players to shoot. McNair needed to consider his actions as he came out too early and doubled up unnecessarily with Carrick. United had conceded on 44 minutes, a bad time to concede a goal.

Half time 1-1.

SECOND HALF

At the start of the second half Lingard was repositioned much narrower than in the first half and had more visibility in the defensive zone. This saw Martial spend a bit more time drifting out to the right.

United shape in the secod half

United shape in the secod half

It wasn’t abundant in the first half but there was more directness in United’s play now, but in this half any kind of build up play was negated by a number of misplaced passes.

Then Thorup introduced Onuachu for Pusic. The Croatian had begun to have a reduced impact and the Nigerian would bring both skill as well as height to continue to trouble United’s defence. He almost made an immediate impact but was thwarted brilliantly by a fantastic save from Romero, technically superb in terms of footwork, the direction of the parry and the recovery save. This was the continuation of a decent first half display from the reserve goalkeeper.

Midway through the half Herrera was replaced with Schneiderlin; the Spaniard was not having a great game as the midfield was bypassed too easily. Did this substitution show Van Gaal’s desire to shut up shop and take a draw to Old Trafford?

There was a lack of presence from Midtjylland’s wide players which was an opportunity missed for them as there was plenty of space behind United’s fullbacks, particularly Love. Midtjylland were progressing through the middle of the pitch and the depth to which United’s defensive line sat was apparent with Carrick acting as United’s most involved central defender.

Then Onuachu scored after being allowed to much time on the ball by Carrick and Love yet Mata’s challenge didn’t help the situation, there was no power in it at all. The way Midtjylland were allowed to play the ball across the 18 yard line in the build up was a joke. 1-2 on 77 minutes.

Onuachu Goal

Onuachu Goal

The goal galvanised the home side as they pressed United in a number of areas but it highlighted how long United held onto the ball rather than moving up the pitch with quick pass and moves.

Was there a fightback from United? If so the front line didn’t seem to be interested gave nothing throughout the half but were also given very little by their midfield. The missed chances only highlighted the lack of killer instinct in the young forward line.

Action areas

Action areas

As the game drew to an end ther wasa bit more urgency from the team with Schneiderlin playing a lot higher, that’s all there is to say.

CONCLUSION

There was no evidence of the set piece specialists in this game but more evidence of the further regression of this team. The defensive shape was too deep and without any bite, the way that Sisto and Onuachu were allowed to progress the way they did was appalling. They weren’t helped by the midfield colleagues and with Carrick often too deep and Herrera too easily bypassed United invited pressure and therefore mistakes.

This team won’t improve unless they show more character and power. Van Gaal remained passive on the substitutes bench and after the match appeared dumbfounded as to how the team had performed this way.

Current UEFA rankings

Current UEFA rankings

The worst thing is that Midtjylland may be seen by some as favourites for the return leg.