SHREWSBURY TOWN vs MANCHESTER UNITED
The FA Cup presents United with an opportunity to win a trophy this season. The game against Shrewsbury presented them with a no win situation.
In: Valera, Borthwick-Jackson and Schneiderlin.
Out: Love, McNair and Carrick.
- Lots of possession and football relatively fast in pace.
- Shrewsbury played far too deep for their own good.
- United could have done with being visibly more aggressive in the face of strong tackling from Shrewsbury.
- United looked efficient and business like but Shrewsbury’s performance certainly helped.
- There were a higher proportion of nutmegs than normal.
- Shrewsbury sat too far off from their marking roles.
- This was Smalling’s 39th club appearance of the season (all competitions) – more than any other Premier League player.
The most striking element of the opening exchanges was how deep Shrewsbury defended thus allowing United to really press on. Despite Shrewsbury playing with two up front United pressed on as soon as a United defender crossed the halfway line. There was numbers too, Herrera played significantly higher and often left Schneiderlin on his own but conversely Mata occupied space between the number 10 position and the Frenchman dropping slightly deeper.
We saw most potency down the right with Varela showing great intent and United got the ball into the final third easily and often on this side. When United got near the 18 yard line it wasn’t Shrewsbury’s 5 man defence that prevented United getting through rather United didn’t quite show enough movement to push and pull out of shape and test the positioning of the 5 man resilience.
With nearly 30 minutes gone Martial had United’s first good chance. After this we saw United’s forward line trio playing much more on the shoulder.
Boom! After a diagonal ball which Schneiderlin nodded down there was a real surprise to see firstly the space available and secondlywho it was available to, Smalling! His shot, partially blocked looped over goalkeeper Leutwiler. 1-0 37 minutes. Shrewsbury were now a 4-5-1.
Boom! An interestingly worked free kick which this time worked after the earlier similar attempt had failed. Hit Martial as three United players ran from an offside to position towards the back of the wall and into an onside position as the kick was taken 45 minutes 2-0.
Joe Riley came on for Borthwick-Jackson who appeared to have suffered another injury and the lad from Blackpool, making his debut, looked solid throughout the half and whilst not offering the quality of crossing did enabled United to look as solid in the face of Shrewsbury’s more offensive 4-4-2 formation.
Boom! A great goal from United with a quick and effective passing move which started with Romero – Herrera – Mata- Herrera-Lingard. 61 minuts played and it was now 3-0.
The half showed that despite the change in Shrewsbury’s formation United had plenty of scope to continue their first half approach.
Mata was very much one of the most influential players in the game as he was allowed too much space and time to pick his passes. This was the main complaint about Shrewsbury’s performance, too much respect which played nicely into United’s hands. Even with a 5 man defence Shrewsbury still offered plenty of space due to their deep positioning.
Ahead of Mata the front three had more opportunities than usual yet there was a lack of incisiveness which is an ongoing issue. Memphis could perhaps shift the direction of his movement when at the 18 yard line; always a dummy, then another, then maybe another before a shot which typically goes wide or over the bar. United could do with increasing the activity in and around the area at the corner of the box as this may give him options at this point.
As the game drew to a close the last 15 minutes saw a positive replacement with the introduction of another academy product Will Keane. The narrative didn’t continue for long though as he pulled up with an injury leaving United down to 10 men.
“Everyone shall say United have to win against Shrewsbury.” - Van Gaal post match.
United did what they had to do, whilst Shrewsbury didn’t. It was far too comfortable for the Reds. Nonetheless, the way that United moved the ball around was pleasing to see, although there was still too much in terms of it reflecting a U-shape, a negative especially when considering the opposition.
The full backs played well and there was a mixture of positivity from both wings whilst this was one of Mata’s better games.
West Ham United await.