After the farce of United’s adventures in the far east and a postponed game in Beijing United returned to Europe and a friendly against Galatasaray in Sweden. Would Ibrahimovich be given his United debut in his homeland?


Both team started this game in a 4-2-3-1 shape; for United that meant Rooney behind Ibrahimovic with Mkhitaryan to the right and Martial to the left. Herrera and Schneiderlin anchored the midfield.

1st Half  zlatan-ibrahimovic-galatasaray-manchester-united-friendly_3754864

United’s first half shape and debutante Zlatan Ibrahimovic

United started the game well and with an early goal. This was trademark Mourinho tactics. United inter-passed in central midfield dragging Galatasaray towards the ball before spraying the ball wide to Valenica who was surging forward into space wide on the right. Valencia didn’t hesitate to deliver an early cross and Ibrahimovic met this with a scissor kick into the net. Good start, both to the game and Zlatan’s United career. This was classic Mourinho because his side overloaded in the middle with numbers and then as the opposition rush towards the ball like moths attracted to a flame United transferred the ball to the space relying on an advancing fullback to provide width. Three minutes in 1-0.

United were comfortable now for the next 15 minutes although they played within themselves. The tempo of their play was a little too slow and Martial and Mkhitaryan were a little too wide making it hard to make connections between the front four. Then on 21 minutes Galatasaray scored. This goal came from a free kick; a fine delivery from Sneijder saw United’s defence left flat footed, they had numbers back but didn’t react. Gumus did for Galatasaray and the score was 1-1.

Goals change game and between now and the end of the half Galatasaray who had not previously laid a glove on United took control. United did several things wrong in this period.

Galatasaray were able to take control because United got it wrong when the opposition had the ball. Firstly the movement and relationship of Herrera and Schneiderlin was wrong. Generally United did not press Galatasaray in high positions but when they crossed the half-way line they did. Unfortunately this press tended to be a one man press in the person of Herrera and all too often he misjudged things finding himself caught on the wrong side and so leaving Schnedierlin exposed through the middle of the team. Herrera and Schneiderlin were regularly getting pulled out of shape. Rooney stayed high, close to Ibrahimovic and so often wasn’t in the game.

As Galatasaray controlled the centre of the pitch Martial and Mkhitarayan dropped deep and United’s defensive shape became a 4-4-1-1. Unfortunately this left Ibrhimovic and to an extent Rooney isolated and United couldn’t get out. The wide players needed to tuck in creating a narrow shape and equalizing the numbers in the centre of the pitch.

Perhaps inevitably this all lead to a second Galatasaray goal. Also inevitably this came down the centre of the pitch with the Turks playing an easy one-two around Herrera.  Bruma found himself with time to look up, pick his spot and shoot from the edge of the box 1-2after 39 minutes. Half time couldn’t come soon enough.


United made six substitutions at the break; only De Gea, the defence and Rooney remained. It is always hard to say in these sort of situations whether the change of personnel or a few half time words of wisdom have made a change but United were a different proposition after half time.

Early 2nd Half  Late 2nd Half

United’s shape early in the second half and then after further substitutions on 65 minutes

Rooney dropped deeper and so was more involved in the game. He was closer to the deeper midfield pair who now comprised Carrick and Fellaini. As these three were now compact they were able to control the centre of the pitch. The whole team was higher up the pitch and played at a higher tempo. It wasn’t long before United equalized.

The equalizer came on 54 minutes. Valencia fed the ball to Rashford who fed the ball back to Valencia running outside. He centred to the far post where Rooney arrived to score.

Then almost immediately United scored again from the penalty spot. An aearly ball into the inside right area had fed Rashford who beat the defender the ball with pace and got past him with power close to the bye-line. He cut across and the goalkeeper brought him down. Rooney stepped up to convert the spot kick. This goal came on 58 minutes and not soon after United made another raft of substitutions. It’s worth making a point about United’s play in the first 20 minutes of the second half however. In the first half Martial and Mkhitaryan held their positions and as previously stated they were often too wide and too deep. In the first period of the second half United’s front four were far more fluid in their movement, constantly stretching the Galatasaray defence. Rooney stayed central but moved up and down the pitch in close coordination with Fellaini and Carrick. Lingard and Young constantly switched sides and Rashford made dangerous runs from central to right. This was great to see and a contrast to the more rigid play we have become accustomed too over the last two years.

On 61 minutes United scored another. Again the goal came as a consequence of play on the right; Valencia again with the assist stood a cross up to the far post and Fellaini arrived to loop a header back across goal into the opposite corner.

Now United made their second raft of substitutions. We won’t describe them, just look at the chalk board, but note that no one who started the game in a United shirt remained on the pitch now.

United’s pattern of play remained unchanged as did their shape and towards the end they simply played out time but they did score one more goal in the 74th minute. The goal was scored by Mata as United probed at the middle of the Glatasaray defence. Rashford poked the ball towards Mata who spun away behind Galatasaray in the inside right area. He slid the ball wide to Carrick who delivered a low ball across the box from the right. Mata slid in to score. Notable here was that this goal resulted from United pushing at the middle of a side and then delivering a ball from a wide area again. Last year United would not have scored this goal as the wide player would have almost certainly recycled possession back inside. United would have retained possession without asking the difficult question of the opposition by hitting a more risky pass across the box, (risky in terms of potentially losing the ball).

Final score 5-2. Quite a turn around.


  • In the first half United started well but seemed to become complacent losing positional discipline. Herrera was particularly culpable here but others got things subtly wrong. Rooney wasn’t deep enough, Martial and Mkhitaryan were too wide and often too deep. The tempo of play became too slow.
  • United made adjustments to address all these issues in the second half and were much more compact both on and off the ball. United pushed at the Galatasaray in the centre drawing players in before release the ball into space in wide areas. They were then prepared to deliver often speculative crosses behind the Galatasaray defence. Five goals says this worked.
  • It’s a curiosity that all United’s goals, including the run which resulted in a penalty came from the right hand side. Valencia delivered three assists.