The Red Devils should embrace the 3-0 unexpected defeat against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday, as they displayed one of the worst defensive performance of the season. In spite of controlling the game for long parts and having major possession, they were dismantled by the counter attacks of energetic Toffees forward Romelu Lukaku and midfielders Ross Barkley, Aaron Lennon (On –loan player from Tottenham Hotspur) and James McCarthy.
The game started with a bang for the host, as the inefficient corner from Juan Mata and poor clearance by Ecuadorian Antonio Valencia, helped Irish midfielder James McCarthy to grab the ball in the midfield and move forward. Further, he swift passed the United’s backline and scored the initial goal (4’) for the People’s club.
After the opening goal, immediately United’s talisman Marouane Fellaini frittered a big chance to score the equalizer in the 8th minute, as his shot was over keeper’s head and the bar. Further, in frustration Fellaini made unwanted tackles on Everton players and earned the yellow card in just about 12’ of play, making him cautious for the rest of the game.
In the 16’, versatile holding midfielder Daley Blind hit a tame shot straight towards the School of Science keeper, which was only the second shot on target.
Throughout the first half, whenever ball was carelessly lost in the midfield, United’s defence could not handle the pressure from Everton’s midfielders and gave away unnecessary corners. In the 35’, Everton’s left back Leighton Baines delivered a picture perfect cross from the corner, which was headed towards the goal by centre back John Stones( man-marked by Valencia) to secure his first league goal for the Toffees.
In the second half, United followed similar pattern of maintaining ball possession like the first period and also introduced amazing players like forward Radamel Falcao and stunning Argentine attacking midfielder Angel Di Maria. The only efficient goal scoring scenario was created by left back Luke Shaw in the 78’, but lack of United players in the box at that instant, yielded no goals.
Everton’s substitute Kevin Mirallas sealed the controversial third goal for the Black watch in the 74’, when Ross Barkley chipped a lobbing pass towards Lukaku (who was judged offside by the linesman), that made the United’s backline stand still. But, midfielder Mirallas came sprinting forward from the left flank and grabbed the opportunity to shot the killer goal.
The game finally ended with a 3-0 score line. During the entire game, Reds surprisingly lacked the creativity in the final thirds’ and it directly impacted the final result and also in table.
Though the battle between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates ended in a draw, the unforeseen result at Goodison Park for the Red devils made their dream of finishing second in the table get shattered.
Manchester United (Louis Van Gaal)
“That was the first time that I found the opponent more aggressive and motivated than us. We started too late. After four minutes the goal was conceded – we lost three duels in a row and you cannot start again. I think we have played too well so our opponents defend more against us now. We have to recognize this as players, as a manager and as a club. Everton deserved to win – when you lose and it is fair you can live with it.”
Everton (Roberto Martinez)
“The players deserve huge credit because we were facing a very good side. We had to be at our best and truly I felt that, as a team, we were at a fantastic level. In every department we were very, very good. You know Manchester United are a very good side with the way they keep the ball. We were quite happy to allow them to have it in certain areas but we showed an incredible intensity [to win it back] and that’s how McCarthy’s goal came. To keep our concentration for 90 minutes and keep a clean sheet, it was magnificent and showed an incredible mentality.”
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Analysis of the game: (Effectiveness/Ineffectiveness of 4-1-4-1 formation with/without Marouane Fellaini’s involvement in the game)
Every United supporter would be disappointed after the 3-0 defeat at Goodison Park against Everton. But, The Reds have complete ability to refine the problems in the away games, analyse and would perform well in the upcoming fixture against West Brom.
The only weakness that resulted in unforeseen losses in the previous two league games is in accordance to the effectiveness of the rejuvenated formation 4-1-4-1 (Only one lone striker) with or without Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini’s participation during the game.
Let us consider the starting line-up of the Reds in both the games against Chelsea and Everton:
The Reds started the two away games against the Pensioners and The Black Watch with almost similar names on the team sheet. The only change that the manager Louis Van Gaal made in the Everton’s game was in holding midfield role (Blind slotted in holding role, Rooney moved upfront, Falcao dropped). The formation 4-1-4-1 was deployed in both the games
But, the lack of innovation in scoring goals (final third of the pitch) persisted in the entire game, since the strategic move of opponents to weaken the strength of United’s talisman Fellaini was cleverly done, by man-marking him and not allowing space to move forward.
The following illustrations captures the events that happened during the previous two away games for The Reds:
In the first figure, Chelsea’s midfield dynamite Kurt Zouma took the responsibility to man-mark Fellaini. Everyone’s eye was on the work rate of Zouma, as he blocked the passes and cleared the crosses, whenever ball approached the Belgian Fellaini.
Moreover, centre backs Tim Cahill and John Terry monitored the movement of Reds forward Falcao and allowed him no room to move in front. So many back passes were seen.
So, without Fellaini’s presence in the box, neither he could contribute in his part for the team, nor others were able to move upfront. Many inefficient crosses from the flanks were provided by the wingers to sole striker upfront, which yielded no goals.
The well drilled goal by Eden Hazard (Premier League Player of the Year) when Oscar back passed the ball towards him and he further sprinted through open defence and shot was clearly based on the deficiency of United full-backs and wingers in tracking back the opponents.
The second figure represents the game between Everton and United. Here, the exact theme of man-marking Fellaini prevailed , as it was carried out by midfielder Gareth Barry. Also,United’s forward Wayne Rooney (Captain) was monitored by England compatriot Phil Jagielka and he allowed him nil space to cut through the defence. It caused the Reds to lose two games on the spin.
Solving Solutions against West Brom:
The Red Devils would surely solve this problem by introducing the stable 4-1-3-2 formation. Since, West Brom would be happy to deploy the 4-2-3-1 format and sit back to earn a point when they visit United on Saturday. The Albions had just 27% Possession against Liverpool when they met previously at the Hawthorns and managed to end the game in 0-0 draw.
Using 4-1-3-2 formation, more free spaces for Fellaini to move upfront is enabled and man-marking could be prevented as many 1v1 situations would be seen using this format, rather than difficult 1v2. It also helps the Belgain to control the long balls using his chest and distribute it to the supportive striker.
Implying this theme, would ensure minimal backpasses and helps the midfielders to find small pocket of spaces in the centre of pitch. When crosses and passes are provided by fullbacks and wingers from sides and in box, two strikers are identifiable in the six yard.It also maintains the Reds playstyle of using fullbacks and wingers.
One notable point for the wingers when delivering the crosses is that, only Fellaini possess the essential height and ability to leap over the defender to head the cross towards the goal. This phase of delivering exact crosses was lagging when United visited Everton at Goodison Park. The Belgian Fellaini was blocked by midfielder Gareth Barry and also was tied both hands as he received an early booking (yellow card) in just 12’.
The difference in inefficient crosses and passes from fullbacks and wingers in the box were seen in the second half of the Everton’s game, as Fellaini was cautiously taken off in the initial break after his booking in the second half of the game was directly. In the absence of Talisman Fellaini in the second period, logically leftback Luke Shaw created the only opportunity to deliver pass in the box (78’),as other players are god in shoot rather than heading the ball. So,it created havoc among the School of Science defence.
In the upcoming game, Michael Carrick could stop the forward passes from Baggies central midfielder Victor Anichebe and also Chris Smalling could manmark Saido Berahino and prevent his forward movement.
The stunning keeper David De Gea could also launch direct long balls to the wingers, as there is ample time and enough space for the wingers across the sides to control the projected ball and pass forward.
A sample illustration of how 4-1-3-2 formation helps United against the Baggies
Every United supporter would hope the Reds bounce back from the previous two away defeats and start a new winning run by defeating West Brom on the upcoming Saturday at Old Trafford.