Manchester United – Bournemouth: Re-energized United Sweep Aside Bournemouth (4-1)
Manchester United dominated Bournemouth from the kick-off, utilizing their more aggressive and risky approach to facilitate beautiful attacking patterns and a new pressing game. Though many challenges lie ahead, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has managed to breathe new life into his beloved football club almost instantly.
Tactial analysis and match report by Josh Manley.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s first two games as Manchester United interim manager went about as well as he could have imagined. Perhaps the only improvement he would have wanted was a clean sheet, as United’s defense continues to leak goals.
He only made one change in defense to possibly facilitate that improvement, bringing Ashley Young into the eleven in the place of Diogo Dalot. Other than that, Solskjær focused on rotating his midfield; Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial returned to the side in United’s 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system. Fred and Juan Mata were the ones to make way after aiding their team to a win over Huddersfield earlier this week.
After a promising start of the season for Eddie Howe’s side, Bournemouth’s form has taken a severe downturn. Eight defeats in ten games since the beginning of November makes for grim reading, although they remained just three points behind seventh-placed Wolves coming into this game.
Howe also made three changes to the team that lost 5-0 at Wembley on Boxing Day. Simon Francis, Jefferson Lerma, and Ryan Fraser dropped out of the team. In their place was Diego Rico, Josh King and Jordon Ibe, who featured in an unfamiliar role as a right wing-back in a 5-3-2 formation.
United’s 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 system allowed a lot of offensive movement from Paul Pogba.
Manchester United display a more improved possession game
Like in the previous game under Solskjær, United showed a more fluid and risk-oriented possession game than they had under Jose Mourinho. This was present in their structure and the players’ individual behavior, which combined to create a United that seemed to be playing with more freedom and positivity.
Their shape in this game was closest to a 4-2-3-1. Like previously in this season, United were still somewhat focused towards the left side. As before, this caused right-winger Jesse Lingard to drift towards central areas. Meanwhile, Martial stuck closer to the left-wing than Lingard on the right, though the former did also move into central areas on plenty of occasions.
Young then pushed quite high in the absence of any other presence on his wing. His forward runs were balanced by Herrera dropping in the right halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. alongside United’s center-backs. Meanwhile, left back Shaw started a bit deeper when Martial occupied the left flank ahead of him, while overlapping When a wide player, most of the times a wing-back, runs outside to fill in the space left by a winger going inside with or without the ball, this is called overlapping. at opportune moments. In contrast to Herrera, Nemanja Matić tended to stay in more central areas partly due to Shaw’s deeper starting position.
Pogba’s reduced responsibility in buildup allows him to influence more advanced areas
Herrera and Matić’s contribution to United’s buildup, as well as the center-backs’ increased willingness to step forward and look for penetrative passes, has taken some of the responsibility off of Paul Pogba. This has allowed the Frenchman to become more involved in higher zones, which United profited from early in the game.
Pogba’s more advanced position is clearly reflected in the above passmap.
In the fifth minute, he arrived in the box to tap in Marcus Rashford’s low cross to put the home side 1-0 up.
Herrera, despite being involved in United’s deep buildup, also managed to arrive in higher zones. It seems that Solskjær has put an emphasis on getting numbers into the box when the ball is in wide areas. For the second goal, Herrera crossed from the corner of the box and met Pogba, who had made a run to the front post.
Another theme under Solskjær has been to get more runners bursting in behind the last line of the opponent’s defense. This was already seen in Rashford’s run to set up the first goal and was demonstrated again for the third goal. Martial was the one who got behind the Bournemouth defense on this occasion. Again, United had numbers arriving in the box, and Martial’s clever outside-of-the-boot cross was met at the back post by Rashford to make it 3-0 before half-time.
United defend more aggressively
One thing Solskjær has not been able to do thus far as United coach is keep a clean sheet. Both their conceded goals before this game had originated from set-pieces, and it was no different versus Bournemouth.
The away side’s short corner routine led to David Brooks receiving in the penalty box. The Welshman did well to take the ball in his stride and cross from wide of the six-yard box. Center-back Nathan Aké got on the end of it to make it 3-1.
Moving on from their set-piece troubles, United’s pressing under Solskjær has been another change from their approach under Mourinho. Under the Portuguese coach, United were generally quite passive against the ball – even more so when leading. It was not rare for United to allow the opponent to have possession and only pressure them once they crossed the halfway line.
Under Solskjær, the counterpressing After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. is much more intense and focused, resulting in less time spent in organized defensive phases. But against the opponent’s organized buildup, they are also more aggressive, looking to engage the opponents earlier and win the ball higher up the pitch.
In this game, the pressing scheme was somewhat simplified because they could match up against Bournemouth’s 3-5-2 formation quite easily in their 4-2-3-1. Lingard, Rashford, and Martial pressured the Bournemouth center-backs three-versus-three, while Young and Luke Shaw pushed forward onto Bournemouth’s wing-backs. In midfield, Pogba stayed close to Bournemouth’s deepest midfielder Andrew Surman and Herrera and Matić dealt with David Brooks and Junior Stanislas.
Manchester United’s high press versus Bournemouth’s buildup
Thanks to the aforementioned structure, United were able to press high fairly well. The strength of their deeper defending is something that remains slightly in question, though, and will surely be tested in upcoming games. Furthermore, while their counterpressing has been decent, they do seem vulnerable to counter-attacks, especially when the central midfielders and fullbacks push forward. A team that targets the wide areas well in the transition phases could have success against this team.
United strolled to victory in the second half where little of substance changed – despite a late Bailly dismissal – after a fourth goal was added by substitute Romelu Lukaku.
Going forward, there is definitely an optimism to this United side under Solskjær, from the fans and seemingly the players too. On the one hand, there is good reason for this. Their attacking options, which are supplied with renewed confidence, decision-making freedom, and some basic playing patterns, are some of the most fearsome in the league. On the other hand, they have yet to be seriously tested under Solskjær yet, and any potential vulnerabilities in their defense, or against counter-attacks, could yet be found in an instant
Bournemouth looked like they might lose heavily as soon as they conceded the early goal. It will be interesting to see how they can recover from this run of form and the two heavy defeats that ended their 2018 after such a promising start to this season.
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