Ferguson’s teams will always attack you down the flanks with great speed and width. Young/Nani will occupy the wing berths and this is the principal area we will focus on here. Last season United got great joy against us from the flanks with all 4 of the goals they scored against us in the 2 games coming from our left side (3 of which were crosses – examples above)
How do you stop this? There are 3 options…. United will look to push play to the wingers from Ferdinand or the 2 central midfielders (probably Fletcher & Anderson) This can be stopped by our wingers blocking off the angles for passes by positioning themselves inside as shown (right) to stop the supply. Alternatively you can push your winger’s right up in a 4-2-3-1 to snuff out the supply from fullbacks. The 3rd way – what Moyes seems to prefer – is to stand off to invite the cross and focus on defending our18 yard box – this is a risky strategy given United’s quality in delivery from either flank- they have scored 8 goals from set piece situations this season – more than any other side – and in Young they have a top exponent of winning free kicks in dangerous positions.
Man United Weaknesses
United will always look to attack and will give you a chance – even at 1-5 down on Sunday they were committing bodies and leaving 2v3 at the back. This season they seem even more committed to offense – the introduction of the more fluid Young in place of the more rigid Valencia is a contributing factor. They will usually adopt an orthodox 4-4-2 but with Rooney dropping in to make 4-5-1 when not in possession.
This offensive approach has led to United shipping a fair few goals this season and they have recorded just 1 clean sheet on their travels in the league. This season their rearguard seems more suspect for several factors. New keeper De Gea has something of a weakness from long range shots – he was beaten 11 times from outside the box last season in La Liga (more than any other goalkeeper) and opposition sides have looked to exploit this. He has looked more culpable from crosses for me though – something which is a specialism for us.
United’s inability to protect their keeper seems to be the key issue as the table (left) shows they concede more shots per game than any side in the league. United have been unable to deploy a stable defensive partnership due to injuries to key personnel (although Vidic and Ferdinand could both figure on Saturday) Their more free flowing style has seen Carrick overlooked so far this campaign and with Anderson more advanced this season and Fletcher/Cleverley are both better offensively – perhaps this lack of protection has cost United in a way we shipped goals badly after the departure of Lee Carsley a few season back
As mentioned above United’s strengths are out wide and for this reason I could see us being more 4-4-1-1 than last weeks 4-2-3-1 with our wide midfielders being given more of a defensive brief for this one. Drenthe has been class and his pace, ability to beat his man and ability to win free kicks will be sorely missed. We usually keep quite a high line and press high upfield against United and leave space in behind – last season at Old Trafford Anderson exploited this with numerous long range passes into the space behind our defence – mostly down our left side again which we will need to monitor.
Fatigue will obviously be a factor – since United’s mauling last week we have played 2 games – one going to extra time – in contrast United fielded a reserve squad atAldershotso will be much fresher. Our game is based on pressing and work rate and maintaining this over 90 minutes will be tricky. Unexpectedly after their calamitous displays in midweek, both Heitinga & Mucha will return to the bench. Billy had a good game and will be pushing Coleman for a start here but I’d expect him to start from the bench also.
I really can’t see United shutting us out and with our own defensive woes this season I could see this one providing plenty of goals. Last season’s encounter witnessed us score 2 against Utd in injury team whilst United scored their winner against us in the fixture at OT in injury time. This, coupled with the fact that we’ve scored 60% of our goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season means it could be setup for a grandstand finish….so don’t leave early. I’m going for a 2-2 draw.