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Talking Tactics

Ten Hag rethink can put Liverpool on back foot

Adrian Clarke 20 Aug 2022
Man Utd, Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke on changes Dutchman can make when Man Utd host Reds on Monday

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 3.

Manchester United

A short-term tactical rethink may help to resolve some of the issues facing Man Utd ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Old Trafford on Monday.

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Erik ten Hag wants his side to play out from the back and become an accomplished possession-based team.

However, during defeats to Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion, Ten Hag’s players passed the ball poorly and with a lack of confidence.

Losing possession cheaply in bad areas, a number of United’s players have looked edgy when put under pressure inside their own half.

Most failed passes in own half 2022/23
Club Total
AFC Bournemouth 70
Spurs 69
Wolves 63
Man Utd 58
Leeds 57

Sticking with the same strategy, against a Liverpool side famed for their closing down, might not be a risk worth taking.

Despite their own below-par start, Jurgen Klopp’s men are consistently outstanding at squeezing up as a team to apply pressure.

No top-flight side has regained possession more often since the start of this campaign.

Most possession won 2022/23
Club Total
Liverpool 140
Newcastle 126
Wolves 122
Southampton 119
Brighton 118

Both of Liverpool’s opponents so far enjoyed success when running in beyond the last defender.

On the opening weekend, Klopp’s side were caught light on numbers at the back from a turnover, with Aleksandar Mitrovic sprinting into space before earning and scoring a penalty for Fulham.

Then in the 1-1 home draw with Crystal Palace, the visitors bypassed a press via Vicente Guaita’s clipped pass to Eberechi Eze, who in turn released Wilfried Zaha to score after beating the offside trap.

United’s best chance of catching Liverpool cold might be to seek out their fast, wide forwards, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho or Anthony Elanga, with longer passes played in behind.

Navigating their press with longer distribution, is also an option that should be considered.

Fulham (22.1 per cent long passes) and Palace (23 per cent) both used this tactic to good effect.

Learning from the past

Last weekend, Ten Hag started with an attacking line-up featuring Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes in midfield, either side of Fred.

It was a decision that gave them five offensive and five defensive outfield players and it backfired.

Knowing Liverpool scored nine goals, without reply, during two heavy victories over United last season, Ten Hag may take a more pragmatic approach.

The only opponent to take any points off Liverpool in 2021/22 using five attacking outfield players, were champions Manchester City.

United will be desperate for a positive result to get their season finally up and running.

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