Talking Tactics

Pogba and Sanchez key to United hitting top gear

Adrian Clarke 1 Jul 2018
Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez, Man Utd

Adrian Clarke on how creative freedom can help Man Utd's stars shine in the new season

Adrian Clarke looks at where clubs can improve for the 2018/19 season.

Manchester United

Finishing as runners-up in the Premier League last season represented a major step in the right direction for Manchester United.

But if there was a downside to what was a largely positive campaign, it was their lack of creativity compared with their closest rivals.

Sacrificing attacking flair for solidity, Jose Mourinho's team did not stretch opponents as frequently as the other top-six teams.

Man Utd's tally of 68 goals was six more than Chelsea but there was a far greater reliance on efficient finishing.

The Red Devils' 19.8 per cent conversion rate was bettered only by champions Manchester City.

In terms of creating opportunities, especially from open play, they were by some distance the sixth-most productive side in the division.

And given the amount of talent at their disposal, there is room for improvement in this department in 2018/19.

Team creativity in 2017/18
Open-play chancesTotalShotsTotal
Man City446Man City665
Liverpool439Liverpool638
Chelsea423Spurs623
Spurs407Chelsea606
Arsenal406Arsenal594
Man Utd343Man Utd512
No regular playmaker

Each of the other teams who finished in the top six places had at least one playmaker who created more than 53 chances outside of set-piece situations.

United's chief creator was Juan Mata with 44. Although he started 23 matches his chances created was only four more than N'Golo Kante, the defensive midfielder for Chelsea.

Paul Pogba never settled into one defined midfield role, carving out 38 goalscoring chances. Anthony Martial, who struggled to hold down a regular place, was next in line with 32.

Top creators for top-six clubs
PlayerClubOpen-play chances created
HazardCHE78
OzilARS72
De BruyneMCI71
EriksenTOT68
SanchezARS/MUN68
AlliTOT63
SilvaMCI56
FirminoLIV55
FabregasCHE54
SterlingMCI54
Sanchez key

If he performs to his capabilities, Alexis Sanchez can become United's main chance-maker.

He created 22 opportunities from open play after joining from Arsenal in January, at a rate of 1.8 per match.

But that was still down on the 2.4 per match the forward made for the Gunners during the first half of the campaign.

As part of a more rigid United team the Chilean found it tougher to open up rival sides inside the final third.

Can Mourinho resolve this issue in his third season at the helm?

Attacking freedom

United clearly have the individual quality but tactical concessions will need to be made.

Encouraging the attackers to perform with more freedom would certainly help.

Another key to unlocking United's creative potential is finding a way to extract the best from Sanchez and Pogba within the same starting XI.

If the pair can click into top gear, United will start sweeping more teams aside with style as well as substance.

Also in this series

Part 1: Finishing touch can lift Crystal Palace
Part 2: Hard work can fix Brighton's set-piece woes
Part 3: Change of approach can revive Burnley's home form
Part 5: Huddersfield must aim high to progress
Part 6: Injection of pace could boost Watford's away form
Part 7: Ki to get Newcastle back in control
Part 8: Improving wing play the priority for Spurs
Part 9: Midfield pair can boost Hughes' resurgence
Part 10: Improvement in the air can lift Liverpool

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