Some thoughts on our defeat yesterday at Old Trafford…..
1. Defensively, the following 3 sub-points are taken ‘as a given’
- The gap between Heitinga and Baines was too wide throughout the first half.
- Our high line for the second goal was suicidal even by our standards….and if we are going to do apply such a risky tactic the midfield needs to apply more pressure so balls can’t be threaded through like Rafael did for van persie.
- Neville was crud throughout. Whilst the veteran campaigner remains a useful midfield option his days as a credible right back alternative look as legitimate as his need for blonde highlights.
2. Neville had a lot of the ball
With Jones following Fellaini when the Belgian marauded forward, Cleverley was left outnumbered in the central zone against Osman and Gibson. This meant that Giggs was ‘sucked’ inside leaving Pip free on the right flank. Thus, as the matrix below shows, Neville enjoyed more of the ball than Baines on the other flank. This was negated by Ferguson prior to half time when he dropped Rooney into the left mid slot to relieve the pressure on Giggs and allow the Welshman to play more central.
EFC Passing Matrix vs Man Utd
5 points on the passing matrix > (1)The size of the player’s head is relevant to how many passes he makes, i.e Gibson made the most, Anichebe the fewest hence their appropriately sized skulls (2) The thicker and darker the line, the more times the pass combination was made, i.e the thicker, darker lines e.g Heitinga to Jagielka emphasise that the combination was made a lot (3) If there is no line between players there was no passes made (4) Click on the image to enlarge (5)The idea for this passing matrix is mostly adopted/ ripped off from the excellent 2+2=11 blog. Anyone who subscribes to football nerding will love it (6) the position of the players in the diagram is loosely based on where they are positioned on the pitch
3. United play down our left
United ‘s central midfield duo looked to push the ball out to the right and build attacks as often as possible with Rafael – and less so Valencia- very impressive. United’s top 3 passing combinations were Valencia>Rafael (13) Cleverley>Valencia(13) and Jones to Rafeal (11).
4.Baines impact minimised
As a result of Point 3, Baines was largely ineffectual and spent the majority of the first half back peddling trying to deal with the threat of Rafael and Valencia. He and his best mate Pienaar (who started on the right but then switched to the left) created hardly any serious chances from open play in the game.
5.Gibson sees most of the ball
As the passing matrix shows via Gibson’s big steak-head, the Irishman had most of the ball for the Blues and was the principal link man between defence and attack. However in reality he ended up linking defence with midfield or back to defence. Overall he combined most with either backward passes to Jer-jelka or sideways balls to Neville.
6.Pienaar didn’t find Anichebe once
Pienaar had most joy in the 20 minute spell prior to half time; however the South African schemer was largely ineffectual and didn’t make any passes to Victor Anichebe during the game. The Big Nigerian, for the most part was starved of service, seemed to be under the misconception that you can get free kicks and penalties at Old Trafford.
7. Fellaini frustrated
The Belgian did minimal all game with his threat effectively neutralised by the lumbering galloot Phil Jones. The ex-Blackburn lackey’s pre match prozone briefing pack presumably stated about Fellaini; ‘get in his face’ and ‘up and at em’ and was probably penned by Phil Brown.
In the Goodison game, Fellaini’s role was to receive long passes and then feed the wide-men as the the passing combination grid here shows. Due to the service being cut to the Belgian he couldn’t feed the wide-men, hence the Belgian didn’t make one pass to his compatriot Kevin Mirallas. More was expected of Fellaini here and in games such as this you expect your big hitters to turn up. He didn’t.
Kevin Mirallas was particularly peripheral and struggled to make much headway in the game. Unsurprisingly, the period he looked most effective was in the 20 minute spell prior to half time. During this spell Pienaar was picking up the ball in central areas and feeding him on the right; this combination occurred 6 times in this 20 minute spell but didn’t happen before or after this time period.
The hope pre match was that last season’s gung-ho 4-4 would be the blueprint as to how we could get a result, however post match it appeared that last season’s gargantuan draw would be the exception to the rule. The dynamism of the last 12 months was nowhere to be seen , replaced by the default efc powder puff display at Old Trafford that we have come to expect garnished with the usual condescending ‘praise’ from Taggart.
As usual we kindly gave the opposition a head start and were then forever chasing our tails with Vidic colossal for United aerially. In the second period, United basically played a ‘rest in possession’ approach and given our leggy midfield we struggled to get the ball back and when we did seemed completely goosed to do anything progressive with it. Whilst the sides had the same amount of chances (11) United hit the target three times more than us and always seemed to be able to up another gear if required.
All in all then it’s been a pretty gash weekend for the Toffee’s. Realistically, achieving the dying ember of 4th spot would mean us having to go to Spurs and Arsenal and win both, which is unlikely in our current form. Thus, the FA Cup now appears a more realistic proposition in terms of ending a season which has promised so much with some kind of tangible outcome.