One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...
The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...
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United Are Playing Like Barcelona
Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion about United's new 3-5-2 system that Louis Van Gaal has adopted. The feeling is that Van Gaal has departed from his preferred 4-3-3 system he played at Ajax and Barcelona. Indeed, Van Gaal is given much credit in shaping the 4-3-3 Barca system that we all know today. However, having watched all of United's pre-season games to date, I don't believe Van Gaal has strayed too far from the Barca system that he helped implement; let me explain.
First, United are not playing 3-5-2, it's far more like a 3-4-3. There has been a clear front three. Rooney and Welbeck have played wider, in between full-back and centre back, in the channels, with Mata playing more centrally in a false 9 position. This is the first similarity with Barca. Barca's front three play wider but the principle is the same. Which is, the general rule in defending is to have an extra defender to attacker, by playing three up Barca/United are forcing the opposition to keep four back with the wide attackers pinning the fullbacks back. Also the presence of three attackers forces the fullbacks to play tight in with their centre-backs, leaving space on the outside. This space is taken up by the fullbacks/wing-backs of Barca/United. If the opposition wide players track back then a back four becomes a back six. With the central midfield sitting protecting the back line it leaves too many players behind the ball making it very difficult for the opposition to get out of their defensive third. This leaves Barca/United with lots of possession.
Like Barca, United have been happy to be patient. Going from one side of the pitch to the other keeping possession waiting for that final injection of tempo around the box (see first goal against Madrid as an example). United's pressing is also similar. Rooney and Welbeck press the full-backs in the same way as, say, Neymar or Pedro would. They try to force the full-back or centre-back in playing a ball United want them to play and then press. The pressing is triggered when an opposition player receives a pass with his back to goal. When this happens a United player will press, this is the signal for the whole team to squeeze. It's been a joy to watch.
When out of possession United like Barca leave three up. For example, Rooney will track the full-back to a point then pass him on. Either the wing-back or the left centre-half will pick him up with the other picking up the wide midfielder, much as they would playing as a fullback/wide midfielder in a 4-4-2. Rooney will stay in the space vacated by the full-back ready to receive the ball should United win it back. As stated before, most teams will keep the full-back in place to prevent the counter-attack, making it that little bit easier for United to defend.
The main difference between Van Gaal's Barca and his United teams is the back line. Barca play four, United three. But is it really that different? In possession Barca's two full-backs play as wide midfielders, they can do this because of Busquets. With the ball Barca become a back three with Busquets dropping almost to play in between Mascherano and Pique. Without possession, and when the ball is wide, Busquets often drops into the back line making it a five. Instead of playing with a third midfielder United are playing with a third defender. This is to counter teams who play with two forwards. As we saw in the Spain/Holland game at the World Cup, Ramos and Pique where left two on two against Van Persie and Robben, and we all know how that turned out.
So while there are slight differences in the shape of the front and back lines the principles are very much the same. There are some problems however. The system relies heavily on the wide players, Young and Valencia are not good enough while Shaw looks awkward playing further forward. The reported interest in Di Maria and Cuadrado makes sense but with both unlikely to arrive it leaves United with little top-class options in the wide areas. Also, with United only playing with two central midfielders it leaves them a little light in that area and they could get overrun. To prevent this United's back line has been playing really high to squeeze the space which leaves a lot of space in behind which has yet to be exploited.
Finally (thank God!), I have one more point, or more like a prediction, to make. I believe when Carrick is fit, and if United have not signed Hummels, then Carrick will play at the centre of United's back three. He reads the game well, is vastly experienced and keeps the ball well, a requirement for who ever plays the central centre-back position.
Just wanted to drop a note saying what a great captain Darren Fletcher has been on the US tour so far. Would love for him to be made full time captain. United through and through, tough guy, inspirational comeback in life, looks fit as a fiddle (or fit as 2009). Plus I think both Rooney and RvP would readily accept the decision.
Panicking About United Signings
Okay, I've had this sick feeling thats been festering for the last couple of weeks, and waking up this morning to LVG's comments about evaluating his current squad re-enforced this feeling...
Since LVG's arrival there has been renewed optimism about Man U. After his arrival in mid-June I was almost certain he would be able to get us back into the CL this year. And the friendly games to date have been pretty good to watch.
But his claims that he may not make any more signings this summer is distressing... He technically hasn't made one signing yet, as Herrera and Shaw were 'on the list' before he came. Last year I sat all summer refreshing my Twitter feed, F365 transfer forum and the BBC gossip column, desperately waiting for Utd to full the finger out in the transfer market. And now, it looks as if it will be another similar summer. Don't get me wrong, I do see the potential of rejuvenating certain players in the squad and giving them a chance this season, but there are proven failures there and obvious deficiencies in the squad. Every single Man U fan knows this and can see this, for two summers now we have known that changes are needed...last summers we had to sit by and watch a new manager come in, see a little bit of potential that makes him think, hmmm I'll give this lad a chance, not make the necessary signings, and fail...
The consequences of not getting fourth this season are unfathomable, the Adidas deal, Glazers selling off more of the business etc. If signings don't happen this summer, and we don't get fourth. We won't have money next year... or Champions League to attract players.
I just can't believe it's happening again...
AIDO 'MUFC fan'
What's With The United Love-In?
Can you please spare us the w*nkfest that has been United over the past few weeks. Since LVG arrived it has been non-stop coverage on F365, his first press conference, Woodward's reaction to the man, his 3-5-2 formation, his tough pre-season, Luke Shaws lack of fitness, who they will buy, who they won't buy, who they will sell, Vidal's refusal to move, LVG's crowing about struggling for the first three months, Paul Scholes discussing how the squad is unbalanced, big brother Louis and his cameras, yesterday it was United may not buy any more players and today it's how happy LVG is with his defence. You would be hard pushed to get more coverage on the official United site. Are there any other teams in the league having a pre-season? It's all a bit dull when it's repeated on a near-daily basis.
I understand that the media have to make money and United sells, however it's embarrassing given that the team finished seventh last season and have no European football. God help us when the season begins.
Steve (a Villa fan)
Lampard Shows Everyone Has Price
So Frank Lampard is to play for Man City until January eh, despite saying in May 2013, "I can't imagine playing for anyone else after being 12 years at Chelsea. I've got a lot of respect for a lot of other Premier League clubs, particularly the top ones, but I'm not sure I could have done that."
Well, he doesn't consider himself a Chelsea man at least. "The club will move forward and, as a Chelsea man, I have no doubt that, with the quality of the players that are there, they will continue with the success that we have all enjoyed over the past seasons." Frank Lampard.
Well, at least not a Chelsea man held in any regard. "We have never seen his like in our midfield before and we will be very blessed to again see his equal." Jose Mourinho.
Well, he is probably only doing it to keep fit "Lampard is not moving to Manchester to sell shirts or to stay fit. He is moving to Manchester to fight for his place and to play at the highest levels of European football for at least another five months." Manuel Pellegrini, (according to Kaveh Solhekol)
Ahh. Let's get one thing straight, he is going to be paid a tidy sum to play/sit on the bench until January so you can understand him chasing the Mansour Moolah, but in terms of being a 'Chelsea' man ,all it took was to slide a briefcase under the table and he is up front row centre saying 'As a small child it was always my dream to play for Man City, they have always been a club close to my heart and I will fulfil a life-long ambition by turning out for my Sky Blue Citizens'. Okay, that's maybe taking it a bit far, but if he really was a 'Chelsea' man he simply wouldn't turn out for their closest rivals for the title, for ANY reason.
Long story short Lampard is proof anything and anyone can be bought for a price. Hmmm, maybe I do him a disservice, maybe he is more Chelsea that we give him credit.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Is It Ingenious?
Have Man City found an ingenious way to avoid the FFP regulations? They've just loaned Frank Lampard from NYC FC, who of course are 80% owned by Man City. I'm not saying that in this case City have intentionally gamed the rules (although perhaps they're testing the waters), but are there any rules in place to stop a club using a subsidiary to buy a player with the latter's funds, then loan him for free to their parent club while the subsidiary continues to pay his wages?
Oh Nasri...Grow Up
It's so easy to dislike Nasri. I'd personally like to get over that because he's a great talent and yet my own selfish enjoyment of his play is tainted by the public persona he has (he may very well be a true gentleman in private) but he doesn't half make it hard.
He's saying (well, I'm guilty of joining the dots here) it's easy to quit France because he hasn't won anything with them? Without going the full 'everything that's wrong with the modern footballer' he just seems like he got caught in that moment of adolescence when he's a sort of proto-adult and just never went the whole hog and grew up.
All the 'stuff going on' seems to be a fairly understandable reaction to what appears to be a selfish, disharmonious attitude.
Alan G, Paris
Inch By Inch
With the new season almost upon us, here's a thought. Does anyone check that each team's goal frames meet the exact regulation dimensions before each season and/or match?
The goal frame is supposed to be 8 feet tall and 24 feet wide. But if I were in charge of a big club, who take far more shots than the opposition when playing at home, I'd consider it worthwhile to add an extra inch to the height of the crossbar in our home ground and maybe an extra 2-3 inches to the width. Over the course of the season, I'm sure it would lead to at least an extra couple of goals (most likely in our favour as we do most of the attacking) and nobody would ever notice.
Unless, of course, it's measured at the start of every single game by an official with a tape measure but somehow, I doubt that happens. Am I missing something here or is this an obvious way of potentially cheating? And don't even think of telling me that no club would ever be so unscrupulous.
Michael C, Ireland