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An in-depth look at the players and tactics employed in Manchester United 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur. How will Louis Van Gaal fair in his second season with the Red Devils?
The English Premier League is back and the first match of the season was a good advertisement for the league.
Louis Van Gaal enters his second season at the helm of Manchester United and, historically, the Dutchman’s teams perform better in the second season under his reign. Manchester United again spent a large amount of money in the summer bringing in Memphis, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Darmian, and Romero. All five had some part in the game, with four starting in Van Gaal’s 4-2-3-1.
Tottenham and Pochettino find themselves trying to undo the post-Gareth Bale recruits with Paulinho, Capoue, and Chiriches all moving out of the club, along with Kaboul and Stambouli. Toby Alderweireld has been brought in from Atletico Madrid and started alongside Vertonghen in Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1.
Both Teams Press to Win Possession
Tottenham were by far the better side in the opening 20 minutes of the match, both in possession and out of possession. Both sides pressed high up the pitch, but Manchester United’s pressing was relatively ineffective as Tottenham were able to bypass it easily with quicker decisions being made on the ball. Van Gaal noted the pressing in the game during his post-match interview saying, “It was a very difficult game because you have seen two teams that want to press, so every player at the ball had a very small time to play.” One reason the Dutchman said it was ‘difficult’ was that both sides were playing a 4-2-3-1. On paper this allows for one of the holding midfielders to be free when their team is in possession of the ball, unless one of the opposition’s holding midfielders steps in support of the pressing. For Manchester United, Schneiderlin was always slow to support Memphis in the pressing of Dier and Bentaleb, which was one of the key reasons to Tottenham’s opening dominance of Manchester United. There were a few times that Manchester United were able to put Bentaleb under unexpected pressure, which caused him to struggle when receiving the ball, but he got away with it countless times. In the end, it was not the Manchester United pressure, but a poorly played, routine pass that changed the game.
On the other side, while Schneiderlin was poor in supporting the Manchester United press, Bentaleb excelled in doing so. Dier would sit, and did well in reading the game, but Bentaleb would break out from his holding position and give Eriksen and Kane support in the middle while Chadli and Dembele would pinch inside which made it hard for Carrick and Schneiderlin to find space to receive the ball from Smalling or Blind and start attacks. Bentaleb did not win possession high up the pitch, but it allow Tottenham to forced Manchester United into the wide areas a bit more and forced Memphis out of the central areas to get on the ball. Tottenham notably won the ball through Dembele as Schneiderlin was caught out in an incredibly dangerous position, but Spurs were unable to use the opportunity. The pressing got to Romero in goal as his short distribution was incredibly shaky, giving the ball away in dangerous areas a few times, and without Manchester United having a target type player in the match, like Fellaini, Romero’s clearances meant a loss of possession for Manchester United each time.
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