MANCHESTER UNITED vs SWANSEA CITY
With Fellaini suspended after his dismissal in the City game and Paul Pogba still injured Jose Mourinho was struggling for midfield resources. He set United up in a 4-2-3-1 shape with Bailly and Blind continuing at centre back and Carrick and Herrera as the pivots. Rooney slotted in as the number 10 behind Rashford.
Swansea set up as a 4-3-1-2 although with Ki and Carroll often staying narrow and higher than Britton in a central position their midfield often resembled a diamond.
The two teams shape dictated the pattern of the game. United were never able to get on top or take the game by the scruff of the neck. That was due to a number of factors but the main issue was that Swansea with a midfield diamond of four outnumbered United’s central midfield. As a consequence Swnasea were able to retain possession preventing United building any periods of sustained pressure. Linked to this Herrera and Carrick were often two deep to counter this and Rooney was ineffectual as a midfield number 10 either when United had the ball or when Swansea played around him.
United were perhaps fortunate to take the lead, not because the penalty award was questionable but rather because it was against the run of play. Rooney converted the penalty after a ‘trip’ on Rashford in first half time added on.
Swansea’s equaliser was also from a set piece; a free-kick in the 78th minute taken by Sigurdsson. United lined up a wall, Herrera ran back onto a post which prompted Llorente to move behind the wall. A chip would have left him one on one with De Gea so Herrera ran back towards United’s defensive wall. Igurdsson chiped the ball into the corner vacated by Herrera
Significant factors in the game were:
- United’s passing was too slow and often inaccurate; their general play was flat. They regularly played passes into feet or slightly behind teammates which inevitably slowed the tempo of their play.
- United were especially slow to move the ball forward. Rashford could regularly be seen making runs for balls forward which never came and then showing his obvious frustration as a consequence.
- United did not use the width of the field well. They were slow to move the ball wide in an attempt to stretch Swansea out of their fairly narrow midfield shape.
- United’s defence was significantly disrupted by injury during the game and Swansea didn’t help; they were overly physical against United’s centre-backs, especially Bailly. Twice in the first ten minutes Ayew clattered late into Baillly. He later repeated this on Blind. Llorente also clattered Blind and Bailly. Eventually Bailly had to leave the game injured in the 61st The referee did nothing. Blind stayed firm having an excellent game.
- United’s combination play in the final third was again poor, as was the first touch of those players receiving the ball in those areas.
Late in the game United and Swansea changed to flattish 4-4-2 shapes; for United Mkhitaryan replaced Rooney with Martial moving more central. All to no avail.