How Could Manchester United Beat Barcelona?
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How Could Manchester United Beat Barcelona?

October 9, 2019


Manchester United took a two goal deficit
to Paris for the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. United were exposed
at home by Thomas Tuchel’s team, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffering his first defeat at United
boss, and the BBC’s Phil McNulty was not overstating the case when he said that “it
would be optimism gone mad to suggest the second leg in Paris will be anything other
than a completion of the formalities.” Optimism may have been in short supply but
Solskjaer and United, without key players due to suspension and injury, nonetheless
pulled off probably the most unlikely win of the entire Champions League campaign. As these stats from OneFootball demonstrate,
United were dominated by PSG in almost every regard except the one that matters most – goals
scored. United’s shooting accuracy was excellent, but the numbers clearly show how much pressure
Solskajer’s team were under. So how did Solskjaer engineer such a turnaround,
fielding a side without Paul Pogba, with Eric Bailly at right back, and a midfield of Ashley
Young, Scott McTominay, Fred, and Andreas Pereira. The average positions of the players show
that Solskjaer effectively doubled up on the right, using Ashley Young, who has played
regularly at full-back, to shield Eric Bailly, a centre back playing on the right hand side
of defence. Andrea Pereira pushed up and in from left midfield, so that United’s 4-4-2
looked more like a very lopsided 4-3-1-2. Indeed, at times, it resembled a 3-4-1-2 with
Luke Shaw pushing up and Bailly covering slightly infield from a normal right back station,
which meant that United could, if they wished, cover PSG’s 3-4-2-1 almost man for man. United tended to sit off, especially when
the ball was being passed around the back, withdrawing to a 4-4-2 but with a deep line.
While PSG exerted fairly consistent pressure on the ball throughout, United sat off, only
starting to press with any real vigour as the end of the each half approached, a direct
contrast to the first leg. Pereira was the most aggressive presser out
wide, quite possibly because of his energy, but otherwise United tended to be quite passive
in the mid and low block. The aim appeared to be to deny progressive passing opportunities
rather than actively tackle the man – United sought to block penetrating movement forwards,
content to let PSG have the ball, as long as the option was not there to pass directly
into dangerous areas. The one obvious situational difference, aside
from when there was a genuine chance to win back the ball as in the instance of United’s
opening goal, was in the central areas. McTominay and Fred particularly *did* try to win back
the ball, especially from Verratti and Marquinhos, when PSG looked to build through the middle. This is probably because it also fed into
United’s main attacking option when winning back possession, which was to break quickly,
mostly through the centre, and look to release Rashford and Lukaku into the channels between
PSG’s three centre backs. Because they were not required to pressing insistently, and
because PSG were invited onto United, creating space, the two strikers could find room into
which to run and attempt to isolate a PSG defender. Turnovers from pressing in central
areas would facilitate this, which is probably why United effectively pressed PSG’s central
midfielders, while allowing the ball to be moved around wide or at the back. United’s other option was not dissimilar,
and that was to go long to Lukaku or Rashford, with support coming from the wide players,
especially Pereira. Again, this direct approach was designed to catch PSG out having pushed
too high while in possession, or to get Rashford or Lukaku running either into the channels
or directly at a PSG defender. With a combination of intelligent off-the-ball running and pace,
both United strikers posed a considerable threat in these situations. Lastly, with around half an hour to go, and
with Diego Dalot on, Solskjaer withdrew his side to make more of a 5-4-1 shape. The intensity
of the pressing upped in the final ten minutes, as United sought to increase the pressure
on a frustrated PSG side and perhaps force an error, but the change of shape was Solskjaer
responding to PSG’s increased pressure, even with the score at 2-1. Rashford’s expertly
taken penalty was just deserts for a team that had played with huge discipline and organisation,
and taken their chances well. With the upcoming tie against Barcelona having
the same home and away order, will Solskjaer be tempted by the same approach? While United
did try to play more assertively at home, and pressed relentlessly to start with as
well, the Norwegian may infer from his team’s away performance that a tight first leg, followed
by an away leg in which United accept they won’t have the ball, but look to rely on
astute counter-attacks and attacking Barcelona’s centre, could yield an unexpected, positive
result. Will it be enough? Well, Barcelona are very
good, obviously, and in Lionel Messi have the world’s outstanding footballer. They
are especially strong on the right where United tucked Pereira from his wide left berth in
against PSG to support Rashford and Lukaku where possible; this asymmetry could be flipped
against the Messi, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto axis that operates down Barcelona’s right. If Busquets drops in to play between the centre
backs, as he often does, and Barcelona look to support attacks through the middle with
their other midfielders pushing high up, United could find themselves facing a shape not dissimilar
at times to the one PSG played. A United win would be a surprise, but Solskjaer
has shown that he can set his team up to play a certain way away from home and get a result.
Barcelona will present a different set of questions to PSG, but Manchester United may
find the answer is the same.

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  1. All United have to do is park the bus and counter attack

    But granted the space they’ll give to Barcelona, they’ll probably lose 4-1

  2. Busquets doesn’t drop into a back three tho, he instead makes the base of the attack being the focal point at which Barça pass around their opponent’s defensive block

  3. You make it seem like United were a tactical master class… they got lucky that psg screwed themselves over

  4. Hahahaha.
    Pathetic video..
    Smalling said "Bring it on" to messi..
    Messi will do his talking on the pitch..
    Visca el Barcelona.

  5. I hope you guys know the PSG were the better side of the 2 legs but their team lacked focus in the second leg with Lukaku with a brilliant run and got passed Buffon got the vital goal then the brilliant pass from Mbappe and that saw a goal for PSG and then for a few seconds I thought in my head that PSG were gonna go through but then out of no where BUFFON made a CRUCIAL MISTAKE leading to the second goal for Manchester United and then a PENALTY in which Marcus Rashford shot in the penalty box and PSG were out of the UCL. As a Barcelona fan we need to find their weakness and ATLEAST score and away goal or 2 away goals. So now the fans of Manchester United think they can beat us because they scored of 2 PSG mistakes and A PENALTY!!!

  6. Where exactly is the part which is put on the bait? Literally so fraud video, not analysis… good analysis but not relevant at all.

  7. I have been united fan for 20 yrs…but there is no way utd can overcome this barca…unless there is a referee that is almost like the one in chelsea barca 2009, no way…i am happy with beating psg but that is it..you cannot stop messi with our current squad…we do not have that chelsea's strong bus defence that mourinho or di matteo had…i will be pleased with a final aggregate score of 4-1..anything more than by 3 goals margin would be a bit sad..

  8. Well they would need someone to run at Barca and grab the Ball and hold the play….in the midfield.. cause if u give Barca the Ball hoping to counter ..they will destroy u with their Tiki Taka..One way they can defeat Barca is to Deprive them of possession Like Roma did..with Nainggolan ,DeRossi, Strootman…but United lack that quality I feel….Being a Barca Fan I feel Counter attack and letting us play will destroy even top teams…

  9. Stop being so ridiculous. If PSG had Neymar and Cavani Manchester United would have been knocked out. Barcelona are not like PSG. It's over for United

  10. It was more PSG bottling than a convincing Manu win. All those goals were from mistakes from PSG. ALL OF THEM!

  11. Only thing barcelona squad have is vast experience but united have the pace and physicality. The match can go either way.

  12. I won't argue about tactics because obviously they do play a massive part. But that hand ball, has nothing to do with tactics…is unlucky for PSG and lucky for MU. It came down to the referee, because maybe another referee wouldn't have given that penalty even with VAR.
    I'm not saying MU didnt deserve to go through because maybe with that performance away to PSG, they did deserve it. But we have to be honest of what happened too.

  13. you can talk about tackticks, but the result of united against PSG was pure and utter luck. the way the goals fell were so lucky, if yiy would have played the game another 100 times united would have won maybe a few times.

  14. The only tie at this stage of game that really shows the spirt of ECL. Both the teams are from different leagues and they both are potential teams to win this league…👍👍

  15. well ..great job Norman……watching just after the first leg on 10/04/19..may the the footballing gods smile on us again…and may we create the greatest shock of the quarter finals again…up UTD !!!!

  16. Every goal in france should have had gift wrapping round them, so dont come this f+++++g CRAP you got to be joking you pretentious prick.

  17. You want to beat Barca? Sell Pogba, yesterday he was a jogging around Rakitic and Busquets. Nowhere to be seen..

  18. They can’t and won’t. The 1st leg against Barca showcased United’s inability to break teams down especially with Barca and Messi just content with taking a 1-0 lead back to Camp Nou. Barca essentially used the 1st leg to study their opponent and then will punish United in the 2nd leg. I believe the worst decision Solskjaer made was selling Fellaini before the end of the season. It’s games like yesterday and against Wolves that he would’ve been very useful. United supporter.

  19. Don’t put united 3-1 win down to tactics, PSG blew their chances and gave united all of theirs. Was a mismatch and Man U where very lucky to win

  20. I mean.. utd only won because PSG where having a bad run, just look at tree recent fixtures they been getting smashed by most teams. Shit happens

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