MANCHESTER UNITED vs EVERTON
Jose Mourinho’s first match as United manager at Old Trafford. Testimonial matches are games that under most circumstances you shouldn’t read a lot into. But after the postponed game in Beijing it was a possibility that Jose Mourinho might take this game seriously to make up for the shortfall in match practice. Would Everton similarly take it seriously given the start of the Premier League was less than two weeks away.
United again set up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with Rooney behind Ibrahimovic. Everton set up in a 3-4-2-1 shape with Stones at the centre of a back three and Coleman and Baines as wing-backs.
United’s first half shape and Ibrahimovic making his home debut
United had a lot of the ball in the first half and played positively at a good tempo. As United attacked Everton’s wing-backs sat deep so that they were defending with a back five and two in front. They defended well, maintaining their shape and making it hard for United to find a way through. There was some good football from United, they passed the ball well and whilst they played at a good tempo the game lacked the edge of a competitive fixture. A couple of points are worth picking out.
Early in the half United tended to play a lot of early balls into the half-space on the right, effectively outside Funes-Mori and behind Baines. These were intended for Ibrahimovic to run onto and whilst he generally got to the ball first Everton dealt with this well. After a while United curtailed this pattern.
A second notable point would be that United’s front four were very fluid with Lingaard and Martial regulalrly switching sides and Rooney and Ibrahimovic switching so that Rooney was often higher than the Swede and then Ibrahimovic would push on beyond Rooney. United were not afraid to commit men forward with Herrera and Carrick pushing forward.
Finally United played far more passes up and down the pitch rather than side to side. They also seemed far more prepared to take greater chances with their passing and movement than last season.
Jose Mourinho made six half time substitutions. Everton made two substitutions at half-time, Robles for Steklenenberg in goal and Miralles for Deulafeu. Team shapes remained unchanged. Then after only six minutes of the second half Marcus Rashford replaced Wayne Rooney. Rashford now played as the main striker with Ibrahimovic moving to the number 10 position behind.
United’s shape before and after Rooney’s substitution early on the second half
United continued to pass the ball around at a good tempo and avoiding a plethora of square passing patterns. Generally United players took one or two touches on the ball releasing a pass with their second touch. Then on 63 minutes United made four further substitutions with Darmian, Romero, Memphis and Mata replacing Valencia, De Gea Blind and Ibrahimmovic. Again the shape remained unchanged. Everton made six substitutions at the same time.
United’s shape after their final wave of substitutions and Mkhitaryan who featured in a wide area
The number of substitutions in the second half of this game, as in the other pre-season games make it hard to pick out key lessons but despite the changes it was clear to see that the team is now more compact in the centre of the pitch, certainly more compact than in the first half against Galatasaray. This suggests that plenty of work is taking place behind the scenes on midfield shape and co-ordination. United didn’t create many chances however. The game had the feel of a testimonial with some good play, a little bit of snap at times but no real edge; shadow boxing.
- Characteristic of United in pre-season had been an improved tempo to their play and a willingness to take chances in and around the final third rather than taking the safety first option. We saw this again here even if much of the play was disjointed.
- Henrkh Mkhitaryan featured in a wide area here, in fact this is where he has featured in every pre-season game apart from the very first one at Wigan. It has been noticeably less effective as an attacking force out wide, but that is where he has played most of his football for Dortmund.
- Instead Ibrahimovic and Rooney featured in the central areas and they have begun to develop an understanding. It didn’t quite come off here but you could see in several interchanges that they are looking for each other all the time.
- United’s midfield shape was much better here. They maintained their shape and looked compact and solid through the middle. Everton had a few chances but these came from wide areas. In an attacking sense here United were quite narrow and need to work on creating width as they come forward. Everton fielded three centre backs which game them strength in the centre and resulted in a game without goals.
- For the second game running United finished the game with a completely different side than the side with which they started.