Man Utd vs Spurs is up next at Old Trafford so we look at the Red Devils’ tactical strengths and weaknesses.
Jose Mourinho and his Manchester United side lie in wait for us next at Old Trafford. So often our tormentor with Chelsea, Mourinho is having some teething troubles at Old Trafford. His team does have a number of strengths, but also some glaring weaknesses. We take a look at them ahead of Man Utd vs Spurs in the Premier League on Sunday.
Weakness: Where Man Utd concede chances
Jose Mourinho teams are built on solid defensive foundations. So far, his Man Utd side has conceded chances from two avenues. Firstly, from teams that attack quickly and directly through their centre backs. Secondly, from the left back zone.
Weakness: ever-changing centre backs
If you want a perfect way to destroy this Jose Mourinho side then you need to look no further than Chelsea’s 4-0 torching of the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge. Antonio Conte’s side cut through Man Utd time and time again, exposing their weaknesses.
They started perfectly by instantly knocking Man Utd on the back foot. The best way to beat a counter attacking team is to score the first goal. Chelsea did this after 30 seconds and instantly seized the upper hand. The strike also exposed Man Utd’s centre back weakness to direct and quick passes forwards.
Man Utd have suffered so many injuries in their back line that they’ve had to switch pairings frequently. Consequently, there is a lack of fluidity and synchronisation in the centre back pairing. This leaves them exposed to teams that get the ball quickly forward at them before their defensive midfielders can recover.
Chelsea got the game underway with such an attack of the centre back pairing. Pedro racing through to expose the lack of coordination. In fact, three of Chelsea’s four goals came from attacking the centre backs directly through the middle.
This is a problem Jose has had before. Remember the Spurs 5-3 Chelsea game at White Hart Lane in January 2015? We consistently got the ball quickly forward at his centre backs to overrun them.
Quick counter attacks and getting the ball early in to the feet of Harry Kane should form the basis of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man Utd on Sunday.
Weakness: Left back zone
The left back zone has been the second area of weakness. This position has also seen frequent rotation. Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Marcus Rojo and Matteo Darmian have all played here, again leading to co-ordination issues.
Chelsea exposed the left back zone to create chances, as can be seen in the graphic above. More recently and Man Utd have conceded from the left flank in their last two Premier League home matches.
West Ham scored their goal from here as Dimitri Payet found Diafra Sakho to head home. Arsenal also equalised as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain darted down the left side to cross for Olivier Giroud.
Attacking the left back zone should form a key part of the Tottenham tactics for Man Utd vs Spurs on Sunday. The selection of players down our right side and getting the ball to them is key to our success.
Strength: Man Utd’s crossing
Man Utd have really returned to being a crossing side under Jose Mourinho and with the sizeable and powerful Zlatan Ibrahimovic up top, why not?
Only Crystal Palace have attempted more crosses in the Premier League than the Red Devils. However, it’s the types of crosses that they play which makes Man Utd dangerous. They look for traditional swung in aerial balls, but also a great number of cut backs and pullbacks. This is achieved by hitting a runner through the defensive line so that he can get to the by-line or in to the penalty area where he is closer to his target.
The main supply line comes down the right with 60% of Man Utd’s crosses from this side. Antonio Valencia is the chief provider with his powerful runs to overlap the inside drifting Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata. These two specialise in the cut backs and pullbacks from inside the penalty area.
Danny Rose and his partner on the left will have their hands full. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mauricio Pochettino use Son Heung-Min in a cheating role, as he did against Chelsea. Son frequently didn’t track and tried to get in to the wide spaces before Victor Moses could recover. This will be something to watch for here.
Strength: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The target for most of these crosses or pullbacks is the colossal Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Mourinho uses him in the way that he often uses big men in his attack. He hits him early to win the first ball, hold it up and bring others in to play. He then wants the attack to find him again with crosses from wide and inside the penalty area.
We can see these two phases perfectly from Man Utd’s last home Premier League match with West Ham.
It’s difficult to keep Zlatan quiet because he only needs one chance to punish you. A high line is a real possibility to force him away from goal, as he is little threat to run in behind. Three centre backs is another, to limit the space and contest any aerial balls. Two options for Mauricio Pochettino to consider.
Strength: Martial and Mkhitaryan
The disappearance and re-emergence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan is one of the most curious episodes of the season outside of White Hart Lane. The Armenian looked tailor-made to take the Premier League by storm, but has only now just started to appear regularly in a Man Utd shirt.
The instalment of Anthony Martial on the other flank has injected real speed and creativity in to the Man Utd attack. This is something that was really lacking this season, as Man Utd’s build-up has been very slow and ponderous.
The pair have been a handful for opposition defences as they run increasingly well off and beyond Zlatan Ibrahimovic, stretching the field vertically. This has been missing from the Man Utd attack until now. They dart directly for the inside channels to execute dribbles that can unlock a defence. A prime example was Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s goal against Zorya last night.
The Tottenham tactics for Man Utd vs Spurs needs to see us aware of the threat that Martial and Mkhitaryan pose. Kyle Walker and Danny Rose have the speed to deal with them. However, Mauricio Pochettino may opt for a back three in order to congest not only the space around Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but also this pairing’s inside runs.
Man Utd have struggled with discipline this season. They have the third most yellow cards in the Premier League and the highest number of red cards. On top of this, Jose Mourinho is not adverse to run-ins with the FA and has already been sent from the touchlines.
Man Utd have committed 190 fouls this season, the third highest in the Premier League. We are no angels, with 191 fouls this season, second to only Watford. This game could turn scrappy and end up with less than the full 22 on the field. What’s more, with our recent spate of penalties, don’t be surprised to see another spot kick in Man Utd vs Spurs this weekend.
Key matchup: Pogba vs Wanyama
Whatever else is happening around them, the key to much of this game will be who emerges victorious from the Pogba vs Wanyama matchup. Paul Pogba is their key to creating chances and making the midfield tick. Victor Wanyama has the strength, power and cat-like quickness to stop him.
Man Utd vs Spurs overall
After years of struggling against Man Utd, we’ve won three and drawn three of the last eight meetings. The Red Devils played a strong side in the Europa League and so will have travel from Ukraine to deal with. We are coming off a high having won at Wembley and with an extra day of preparation.
They key is very much on each team’s left side. How well Spurs attack the Man Utd left back and how well we defend our left side against Red Devils’ attacking raids.
Man Utd vs Spurs prediction: Man Utd 1-2 Spurs.