Talking Tactics

How Silva can inspire Fulham to another win at Old Trafford

By Adrian Clarke 23 Jun 2024
Silva, Ten Hag

Adrian Clarke looks at how Fulham could approach Man Utd in opening match of 2024/25 season

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Match analysis - Manchester United v Fulham

Man Utd have won 21 opening matches of a Premier League season, more than any other side, but they will not take anything for granted against Fulham on the opening match of the new season.

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Losing six of their home matches last season - nearly a third - Erik ten Hag and his players will be determined to restore some of Old Trafford’s lost aura in 2024/25.

And with memories of how Marco Silva inspired his side to a stunning 2-1 win in February still fresh, United’s focus has to be right when they kick off the new campaign on 16 August.

United failed to set a positive tone in each of Ten Hag’s previous opening home matches in charge.

Last August they scraped past Wolverhampton Wanderers with a fortuitous 1-0 success, facing 23 shots including 17 from inside their own box.

The year before, on the Dutchman’s Old Trafford debut, they were beaten 2-1 by Brighton & Hove Albion.

So, if the Red Devils deliver another slow start, Fulham will be confident they have the ability to punish them.

Never letting their opponents settle

Silva’s Fulham are at their best when their off-the-ball work is tireless and aggressive.

That is how they performed on their last trip to Old Trafford - constantly applying pressure to Man Utd players when they were on the ball.

The stats below from that 2-1 victory will encourage Fulham to apply similar levels of pressure on the opening night.

MUN 1-2 FUL - transitions and turnovers compared
Stat MUN FUL
Pressures 138 163
Pressures in own third 34 80
Pressures resulting in a turnover 12 26
Transitions reaching final third 13 16

Happy to let United enter the final third, Fulham did a great job of denying the man on the ball space, forcing a stream of turnovers that sprung fast breaks and counters.

You can expect a similar tactical approach in mid-August.

Passionate and progressive

Fulham’s other strong suit in that win - sealed by a stoppage-time goal on the counter from Alex Iwobi - was their ambition to make forward runs with intensity.

Iwobi's late winner at Old Trafford

Whenever they broke on Ten Hag’s men they did so with purpose and attacking thrust, turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye.

Across the past two Premier League seasons Silva’s side have consistently shown they can progress the ball through the thirds at pace, and if ever their opponents’ structure has flaws, they are good enough to capitalise.

The following running stats from that February encounter highlight how positivity and athleticism played a key role in their win.

Fulham made 16 more runs into the penalty area than Man Utd.

MUN 1-2 FUL - sprints/runs compared
Stat MUN FUL
Sprints 34 78
Runs targeted by a pass 41 51
Runs into box 34 50
New-look United?

By the time we kick off on Matchweek 1 it will be fascinating to see how different Ten Hag’s starting XI will look compared to last season.

Major changes are expected this summer as the head coach seeks to build on a disappointing eighth-place finish.

Whoever does start, you should expect Man Utd to boss possession and spend plenty of time creating opportunities inside the final third.

If they show greater application, improve on their defensive shape, and take their chances, the home side should prevail.

If United do not do that, another upset could be on the cards.

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