Manchester United fans applaud the sh*housery but is it a sign of mid-table hackers?

Date published: Tuesday 23rd August 2022 7:00 - Editor F365

Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez looks pained

We have more mails from Manchester United v Liverpool and it’s the sh*thousery that comes under the microscope, as well as tactics from Ten Hag and Klopp.

You can write about other things too. Send your views to theeditor@football365.com

 

This is just what happens when a team runs a lot
Not to take anything away from Manchester United’s win last night, the reaction is a measure of where the two teams are right now.

Man Utd set up how I’d expect a ‘mid table’ side to set up, defend deep, knock it longer on the counter attack.

Liverpool had more possession, more shots, more shots on target, more corners.

It’s amazing how a game appears when one team runs a lot (especially when you consider how little they have ran recently)

Some of Man Utd’s play was excellent, Liverpool appeared a bit disjointed, especially in midfield.

The concerning thing for Liverpool is many expected these tactics from Manchester United. ‘Many’ didn’t include the Liverpool players apparently.

But let’s not get all knee jerky and make this out to be something it wasn’t. This wasn’t a dominant performance by Manchester United. It was a shock win by an upper mid-table club against a side looking to win the title.
Graham (trying to find my boots might get a game in midfield), LFC

 

Ten Manchester United conclusions ahoy
I’ll stick to United conclusions as Liverpool fans are already wading in vociferously.

1) I’m confused – are these players rubbish or not? Somebody wrote in recently to say Rashford was a squad player at best? Must be nice to have squad players that can dribble past three defenders from a title-challenging side. Should have scored, would have been a goal of the season contender.

2) United will always make big signings like Casemiro. But the real masterstroke of this window may end up being Tyrell Malacia who at some 15m is turning out to be some player! We just need a steady stream of Malacias and we’ll be ok.

3) The game was great, but it was particularly heartening to see that performance, and then see the bench comprising Ronaldo, Martial, Maguire, Shaw, Wan Bisaka, Fred et al. with Casemiro to come.

4) ETH erred with his team and tactics vs Brentford, but he got both spot on yesterday. It struck me that most of the top teams – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool etc. all play with speed rather than muscle so Martinez and Varane are a great choice. When it comes to the strong and muscular forwards – say Newcastle and Brentford, he might need to have a different plan. He’s going to need the squad.

5) I was amazed after the game to see that Liverpool had 70% possession. That didn’t look like a 30% game to me. Clearly, a great reminder of making your possession count. United looked far more dangerous for three quarters of the game. Could have had a couple of more goals. For much of the game Liverpool’s best chances where when United players threatened to score bizarre own goals.

6) The half time substitution used to be a thing of shame – but ETH used it tactically yesterday and didn’t feel like a slight on Elanga in any way. I wonder if the 5 subs rule will make this kind of half time swap more regular.

7) It was nice to see De Gea charge out of the box to clear the ball – even though in that particular instance it wasn’t essential. Old dog, new tricks, etc.

8) This Man United team has always been excellent at counter attacking goals which they had apparently forgotten last season – the second goal felt like a throwback to Solskjaer’s good days.

9) It was also interesting to see the full range of Bruno’s repertoire – the non-stop running, the passing and tackling, the play-acting, the sh*thousery, it was all there – welcome back Bruno.

10) No short passes out of defence today against a high pressing team. This Ten Hag chap seems to know what he’s doing.
Ved Sen, MUFC

 

Manchester United were brilliant
I’ll be cautious later but for now what a f**king fantastic performance! This was the complete antithesis to the game against Brentford, a transformation. Pre game the headlines were already drafted, the knives sharpened a waiting to gut United once more but Ten Hag was not messing about, the reported punishment training conducted earlier in the week was backed up by dropping Ronaldo, Shaw, and Maguire.

In terms of tactics this was straight out of the Ole playbook. Gone was any thought of passing out from the De Gea, gone was the high defensive line, gone were the underlapping fullbacks. Instead we saw quick transitions to exploit the space behind Liverpool’s defence, much welcomed aggression, and sh*thousery.

Martinez and Bruno the chief instigators and inspiration to the Old Trafford crowd. Unlike Ole though there was control and skill, the team looked, dare I say it, press resistant. A concept completely alien to United previously. The composure on the ball from Eriksen, Malacia (who was incredible on his full debut) and again Martinez helped immensely. Combined with tireless pressing the instruction to stay tight against their opponents and if possible go through them prevented Liverpool from ever establishing their rhythm.

In making changes at half time Ten Hag showed again the disparity with Ole. Attacking substitutions whilst leading were prohibited under the Norwegian but here Martial came on and Rashford moved left to fully exploit Liverpool’s weakness, with subsequent subs made in a timely fashion to replace tiring legs and maintain the work rate. United easily had the best of the chances with even the possibility of scoring a few more if luck had run the other way. In contrast Liverpool barely threatened. De Gea’s only real save came from a deflected cross and even in the last 10 minutes when the pressure ramped up never did I feel the inevitable dread of the equaliser on the horizon.

In the context of the season this performance could be immeasurably significant. In terms of the media and fans this gives Ten Hag some breathing room and alleviates pressure that would only have compounded had the team played to expectation. More importantly though to the players Ten Hag can now say ‘remember this feeling, listen to me, put in the effort, and see what can happen’. It builds trust and confidence in his leadership. There will be losses and poor form to come this season but this game is a marker for his tenure and a proof of what’s possible.

What’s annoying to realise though is that this was always there, the players were always capable of this performance. Where has it been? What justification can they have for years of apathy? Also to be pessimistic, does this knock any remaining transfers on the head? The Glazers have always been reactive, last week’s mauling by Brentford saw £60m spent on Casemiro. Does this result make them think twice about further spending, ‘you just beat Liverpool, you don’t need Anthony or De Jong, you’re fine’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

And yes, just like everyone else we have a load of f**king dickheads in our fanbase. Anyone who think throwing glass bottles at a coach is acceptable should be banned for life without question. Knowing now the coach was full of children, they should be dragged round the back of OT and filled in for good measure.
Dave, Manchester

 

If Klopp can’t be magnanimous…
The salty tears of the likes of Minty and James Outram, coupled with the childlike mental gymnastics of Gronk (hilariously using knob instead of Rob, what a deep burn), lead me to wonder why only a small number of Liverpool fans can be magnanimous in defeat? Just look at mails after they have beaten us and you’ll normally see an admission that the better team won. I suppose it’s difficult when your own manager can’t lose without throwing around nonsense excuses. Apparently our second goal last night was offside, even though the technology clearly shows it wasn’t. Well at least he didn’t blame witchcraft or the weather this time.

Truth be told, it was a good time for us to play Liverpool. Both in the sense that if players (from either side) can’t get themselves up for that game then there’s something wrong, so it was a much-needed kick up the ass for us to refocus after two extremely poor games, and also Liverpool have clearly not hit their stride yet. I’m not having the injuries excuse, that first team is nearly as good as it gets for Liverpool. Matip might have made a difference but we were generally more up for it than them and I think that would have been the case regardless of who was on the pitch. Naturally expecting a sterner test at Anfield later in the season but hopefully we will be in a better place then too.

Whilst I thought we played well at times and at least showed a bit of fight, there are improvements required both on and off the ball. Casemiro will make a difference and if TH wants to play the pressing game then he may need to stick with the CBs who played last night (or Lindelof if Varane misses games) as they allow us to squeeze the game high up the pitch. Maguire still has a role to play (assuming the Chelsea rumours come to nothing) and a world-class DM will help to cover for his lack of pace in certain situations, but it’s good we have proper competition in that area. And as much as I love the man and all he has done for us over the years, Ronaldo should not be starting if he is unable or unwilling to put a proper shift in. Obviously it’s only one game but it’s a start.
Garey Vance, MUFC

 

…It’s saddening to see the fans of the biggest club in the world™ imploding and back-biting so quickly. It’s only one game lads. Well, ok, it’s three. I guess it means more.

Maybe it’s a hangover from the sudden crashing reality and failure to land that quadruple you convinced yourself was happening. Maybe it’s selling Mané (I seem to remember warning that this was the start of the break up of the 5 title team). Maybe it’s the injuries from overtraining?

Either way, now suddenly the manager – the former saviour and best manager ever – is at fault (is everyone a Stewie Griffin at heart after all?), the right back (who is one hell of a player, one of the best in the league if not the world), Milner (who deserves no ire, he was everywhere). But the doom is writ large on the walls. I thought this was going to be your year?

Look, let’s be honest, we were up for this game like you lot were up for those last season. And damn right. Also the team stopped tying its own arms and legs behind its collective back by having the actual best XI available on the pitch. It’s been far too long coming. Would Darwin have any difference? Nah. Would Matip? I doubt it.

By the way, your keeper was touched by god with that save from Eriksen’s free-kick and Rashford’s near second.

The biggest question for us now is how does Casemiro fit in, and how unfair is it on McTominay after that stonking performance that included a defence splitting pass of sheer Coutinho-esq beauty. Either way, Bruno needs to be given the captaincy and Martinez is a beast. We just need to wrap Varane in bubble wrap between matches.
Badwolf

 

Some Manchester United points
Let me tell you a couple or three things:

1) From the other day, Bruno Fernandes is up there with Harry Kane as always being referred to by his full name.

2) Badwolf, with all due respect, no-one knows whatever views you have spouted before. Your mail is littered with little backslaps about you being right….leave it out please fella.

3) United haven’t played fast one-touch football since the first 6 weeks of the 11/12 season before Cleverly and Anderson got injured. I think we finally have a modern football manager.
Silvio Dante

 

Is this the year of the cheats?
Well done to United last night. It was clear from the off that the crowd and the players were up for it and they were the better team on the night.

The Liverpool was far from the first XI but even then I’m not sure how Liverpool play anymore. We’ve gone from heavy metal gegenpressing to possession-based edge of the area movement to what we have now. What have now seems to be concede one or two chances based on the very high line and TAA humping balls in to the box. The era of the triple threat where defences double up on Salah only for Mane or Bobby to score are long gone.

The cheating from Bruno and Martinez was clear to see last night. Bruno should have got a second yellow. I hope his eyes are alright. They seem a little sensitive as he kept going down holding them. Martinez’s poor shoulder after being hit in the ribs by a ball on the line too. Poor soul.

I think we’ll see a lot more of this outright cheating with the 5 subs rule. If referees continue to let things go only yellow carding till later then players are going to get a free blatant dive (Bruno’s yellow) or rugby tackle (Varane’s yellow) without fear of it affecting the result. They can just be subbed without jeopardy. For teams like United and City with a bench of 50m plus players on 300k pw what does it matter if McT has taken a booking to prevent a breakaway, well just sub on Fred. A team can take 16 yellow cards for cynical play before it affects them.

Bruno, Varane, Casemiro, Martinez. It’s going to be the year of the cheats.
Alex, South London

 

Liverpool tactics are not the problem
When Liverpool press as a team, the high defensive line works, Liverpool will have all but Alison in the opposition half, with two centre-backs against one attacker and Fabinho picking up any loose clearances.

When you press that deep into an opponent’s half, to break the lines players usually have to beat a Liverpool player and release a pass before a second Liverpool player presses them. As the opposition player is receiving a pass under pressure their head is usually down to dribble, this makes the next pass much more difficult. This in turn makes the run for the forward harder to time and Liverpool tend to catch the opposing team offside.

In the Palace game and last night, both times Eze managed to evade the first challenge of Fabinho and nobody was close enough to pressure allowing him to look up and play a pass. For Martial last night once he had beaten Henderson he had the time to look up and play a relatively easy pass in behind. Klopp won’t abandon the high line. More than likely the team will play itself into rhythm and begin squeezing opponents in again. It may take a few more weeks as players adjust to the energy levels required.

Nunez missing last night was a major blow more than any of the other injured players. All pre-season has been spent with a team building cohesion with a new forward who runs off the back of the opposing centre backs into space, usually from left to right behind the full back.
This is a change from Mane or Firminho who played a fluid false nine and dropped into midfield to create a 4 v 3 against opposition midfielders. Without the central threat in behind, teams can double up on Salah and Diaz outside.

If you watched Salah last night, his runs were not in behind instead he came short and asked for the ball to feet. He consistently took up inside right positions. These would make sense with Nunez running into the channel behind him creating a 4 v 2 against the opposing wingback / centre back or fullback/ defensive midfielder. Without Nunez and the run in behind, everything was played in front of United’s midfield and defence. I remember only two occasions when Milner or Elliot broke the lines last night and received possession behind the United defence. This makes defending Liverpool attacks more predictable. The one time Diaz made a run in behind, from left to right, Trent was unable to find him with the pass.

Final thought, United played well and were aggressive and deserved the win. They outran the Liverpool midfield and pressured the last line with quick transitions. If I was on the Liverpool transfer committee I would be thinking of a Maddison-type player. One who can break the lines from midfield but also take up central shooting positions. A la an O- type player.

The return of Nunez following Newcastle will help, as will the direct nature of Jota’s aggression in the opposition box and third man runs. It’s not the start we expected but this Liverpool playing to its potential has shown in seasons past that they can win 10 plus games on the bounce. Let’s see what happens.
Mark. Dublin (it’s not the tactics, it’s Milner’s beard. Although it does look well)

 

Not even close to a Liverpool crisis
For me there was a certain inevitability about last night. Liverpool have not started well, United were coming off the back of another embarrassment. Anyone who couldn’t see this one has never watched Liverpool-United before, clearly. It’s different.

That said, I’m not naive. Liverpool have got issues. But I am loath to panic just yet.

First off, it’s 3 games in. So there is time to correct things. Second, we are capable of putting together incredible runs of form (one of which came at the end of last season).

Injuries are playing their part, and adding to the weight of calls for a new midfielder to be brought in. Whilst I obviously agree that we’re light on quality in there, I think the numbers mean we’re prohibited from bringing anyone in – certainly looks like a hard sell to the board (think of the current wage bill for 7 central midfielders) and I think the ask was likely to shift some dead weight before they invest further. So realistically, it’s not about throwing toys out the pram, it’s going to be about trying to solve the issues with the players we have – which takes time, effort and a little bit of patience.

To ignore issues and not question Klopp would be silly, but to assume he’s being obtuse or ignoring the problem is perhaps even more misguided. He doesn’t go to Old Trafford and leave Fabinho on the bench for no reason. Equally it’s tricky to advocate for a switch to 4-2-3-1 or similar – due to injuries we don’t really have the personnel and we’d likely be stifling Trent and Robertson/Tsimikas as our creative outlets in the absence of Thaigo/Keita – so you’d be reluctant to do that.

In short, I don’t have the answer, and maybe Klopp doesn’t either. We may well have to muddle through for a few more weeks and see where we land.

For me, after last season, I’m finding it easier to be a bit philosophical about it. This is a significant bad patch of form, but they have tended to be few and far between under Klopp. I think we’ll come out of it soon enough. We’re creating chances, still scoring goals, it’s just not clicking. But that’s football.

Crisis? Not even close for me (Clive).
Marc

 

What are Liverpool’s problems?
Firstly I want to say congrats to United, by far the better team and deserved the win. Let’s just hope you play like that every week and not just raise your game because it’s us.

Were three games in and while I wouldn’t call it a crisis there are quite clear problems. Taken alone none are bad but put together they paint a picture.

Klopp is doing a Rafa and engaging in media fights for no reason.

Milner and Virgil fighting on the pitch.

Mane insisting on leaving

Keita doing the same.

Crucially we do not look like a team and haven’t at all this season with no signs of improving. The togetherness isn’t there right now. And crucially Klopp is making a lot of basic and obvious mistakes, unforced errors.

His starting 11 in each game so far have left a very glaring weakness in the team which each opponent has gleefully exploited. Phillips in a high line against a fast palace. 304 year old Milner instead of fabinho in midfield against United. Milner has been a great servant but he is not a starting 11 player anymore, you can see his mind is sharp but his body often can’t execute the play his mind is seeing. Also why does Henderson keep getting subbed? Him and Elliot were out best players yesterday while Milner looked out of depth, who do we sub? Henderson.

Is there a problem behind the scenes? I wouldn’t have said it before but now I think there might be. A lot of people acting very uncharacteristically, people like Milner and Virgil who are usually pretty level headed.

With 75 min on the clock and trailing to United Klopp sent on a sub…a left back. At the same time, while leading, United sent on another striker.

The results aren’t nearly as worrying as the fact that we didn’t deserve even the poor results we’ve got. Klopp has a bit of self reflection to do now because these problems are his problems. Letting taki go when we had 4 midfielders who were eternal injury worries was a mistake. Starting Nat Phillips and still playing a high line was a mistake. Starting Milner over Fabinho was a mistake. Hooking Henderson was a mistake. But perhaps his biggest unforced error is sticking with tactics that have had diminishing returns for a while now.

A lot of teams have learned that sitting back and hitting on the break is very effective when done right. Klopp needs to adapt now.
Lee

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