Mismatch tactics by Van Gaal costs United again

Mizgan Ahmed on 10th December,2015

Manchester United lost to German side Wolfsburg 3-2 at the Volkswagen Arena and crashed out of the Champions League on Tuesday.


We have been talking about how United struggle going forward and make notable goal-scoring opportunities but in the process they have been pretty solid as far as goal-conceding is concerned. OK they have been solid at the back but many questions were raised whether they should balance their attack and conservative possession play.

They came to Volkswagen needing atleast a point or win could have been better and Van Gaal changed his tactics a bit for the bid of it.

Let’s analyze United’s starting formation and how they struggled against pacy forward line players of Wolfsburg.


It was more of a 4-1-4-1 with Schweinsteiger in that holding midfield role, Fellaini running box to box, Depay, Mata and Lingaard in behind Martial. They had young Varela in that right back position.

Generally, Van Gaal goes with a 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfielders which gives more solidity at the back and it was the catalyst for passing football and successful defensive record. But, in this game, he went with an orthodox 4-1-4-1 with Fellaini in between no 10 Mata and deep lying midfielder Schweinsteiger.

They were more direct in their play, less possession to get the ball forward which kept likes of Depay and Lingaard forward from wide areas, fullbacks too overlapping whenever needed, Fellaini moving more forward and be a presence in opposition’s penalty area. Mata and Martial were making movements which caused problems for Wolfsburg’s backline.

This actually played it into the hands of German side, Schweinsteiger struggled in that holding role, he moved forward at times leaving that gap between midfield and last line of defense. Darmian and Varela also moved forward regularly leaving Smalling and Blind with a lot to do. In general play, once the ball goes past Schweinsteiger, Vierinha, Arnold and Schurrle are in behind him and they just have to get past the last line to create a goal-scoring opportunity, Kruse made some clever runs giving Blind and Smalling lots of trouble, Depay and Lingaard too did not track back and help the fullbacks in defending.

So, United were cut open for probably the first time this season with this ease and Van Gaal should take the blame for tenacious tactics and imbalance between attack and possession play. Whenever they got caught on possession, it was all about Wolfsburg players charging forward and not United players tracking back and helping their last line defenders.

Till now we have been talking about mismatch play of United with just possession football and null going forward, but it was an absolute reverse on Tuesday, with United looking a threat going forward but were cut apart whenever they had to defend. It has to be said that imbalance play was evident in any case and Van Gaal needs to change a bit in a bid to create that balance between attack and defense.

The pressure is of the highest order here and the Dutchman needs to use all his experiences at his disposal in order to get United out of this conundrum.


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