LIVERPOOL vs MANCHESTER UNITED
10.03.2016

Mega tie! Under Van Gaal United have done rather well against Liverpool though in this fixture earlier this season United didn’t play particularly well but still took the spoils.

PERSONNEL

In: Varela, Fellaini, Memphis and Schneiderlin.
Out: Darmian, Lingard, Herrera and Carrick.

KEY POINTS

  • The man to man marking was good at first but risky and this was proved to be the case when the likes of Can were tracked back into the United area.
  • Martial cut a lonely figure and he wasn’t supported enough as the wingers were concerned with defending.
  • Mignolet not having a shot to save is poor.
  • Liverpool looked more determined and hungrier.
  • De Gea was invaluable; he saved United’s blushes.
  • United have not won any of their past six away games in the knockout stages of European competition, losing five.

FIRST HALF

United started with an impressive tempo and the way they set about Liverpool’s midfield and defenders was impressive; they did however allow Sakho too much freedom with the ball. Liverpool tried to really stretch the pitch and this challenged the man to man marking of United’s system. See how Coutinho moved inside and Moreno would occupy the space that Varela vacated.

United first half shape

United first half shape

Memphis then gave Clyne a reason to go down easily as a penalty was awarded against United. Totally undeserved but preventable earlier on in the move; Fellaini was not tight enough to Henderson or Coutinho who combined to lay the ball through. The tempo of the game swayed from United.

The positioning of Coutinho was not helping United get back into the game as he drifted inside behind Schneiderlin. The Frenchman was occupied with Lallana.

De Gea made two great saves in the half that kept United in the game.

De Gea - great save

De Gea – great save

Fellaini was not asserting himself enough and there was a couple of occasions where the long diagonal ball to him was used to no avail. Liverpool’s movement was much more fluid as Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana played havoc in front of the defence and behind the midfield.

Defensive misshape

Defensive misshape

When United started back a movement out from defence there was no control on where the pass was being played to. Both Blind and Smalling were pulled out of position.

There was a lack of quality from United as the half drew to a close, loose passes, a drop in desire, lack of tracking back and Memphis going down when we had a chance down the line was infuriating. Rashford was struggling as he was being asked to do a job which nullified his threat.

How did we only go in 1-0 down at half time?

SECOND HALF

An unexpected move by Van Gaal as Carrick came on for Rashford. Rather than sitting in the midfield he went to the middle of three centre backs. The ball out from the back in the first half was woeful and there was no chance of one of them pressing forward. It did however mean that there was still no verve in the midfield. How would this address the Liverpool pressing? The bigger part was the loss of Rashford who was clearly up for the game although he was muted out on the right. Get him forward, get him useful.

United in the second half

United in the second half

Initially, there was better ball possession from  United which was helped as Blind was pushed further forward as part of United’s 3-5-2. It was difficult to see who was the recognised striker as there was more movement up front.

Liverpool in their 4-4-2 were flat and struggled to cope with how United moved the ball quicker. This was effective but didn’t last long as substitute Joe Allen played a big role in working the right hand vertical channel in a modified 4-1-4-1 formation.

Lallana played a massive part in Liverpool’s second goal and the way he and Henderson were allowed to plough into United’s final third and dominate space was frustrating; the ball played out by Carrick was the nail in the coffin.

The midfield was over ran and as a result Carrick struggled under pressure from the pace of it all. In fairness to the midfielder Fellaini, he tried but saw the game pass him by.

There was a lot wrong with United’s performance and it was the little things such as controlling the ball, passing accurately and effectively; Rojo’s passing in particular was abysmal. When we did get forward, united made Sakho and Lovren look world class. If Martial had done that little bit better maybe things would have been different?

CONCLUSION

There was no dynamism in the midfield two and Fellaini looked unsure of his positioning.

The minimum you expect from a United team in a match against Liverpool is aggression and desire. Whilst the team will surely be up for it they didn’t show it and that was not on.

The first ten minutes were encouraging and the man to man marking was an interesting approach but not a sustainable one. The killer blow was the penalty and despite it being a soft decision Memphis should have been better placed to tackle, not chasing his man. Despite that poor positioning what was concerning was how United let their heads drop after the penalty.

De Gea saved Uniteds blushes

De Gea saved Uniteds blushes

With Rashford out wide right there was not enough menace in the forward line. Liverpool were keen to get the ball out to their left and expose Varela’s positioning. It was a lot to ask of Rashford and consequently the forward line had nothing and gave nothing.

The Schweinsteiger substitution was a way of shutting up shop but also signalled a lack of options on the bench; where are the game changers in this team, especially in such a hostile atmosphere.

There has to be a change.