This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Pace. Pace. Pace. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson were remembered for their relentlessness in attack and the speed in which they moved both with and without the ball. Since the Scottish legend’s departure, the Red Devils have frankly become slow, one-paced and one-dimensional. No edge of your seat action, no ‘wow’ moments.
But in the immediate weeks after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival, it seemed like the ‘old’ United were back. Counter-attacking at will, being clinical in front of goal and a real danger everytime they pushed forward. The performances at Wembley and the Emirates against north London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal were a throwback to when they were dominating English football.
Whilst the end of the campaign seemed like the club had gone back into their shell and hit a lull, the summer signings of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are encouraging. The duo are young and explosive and are everything Solskjaer has been looking for.
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Speaking on the club’s pre-season tour of the USA, the Norwegian said: “The two of them do have top, top speed. Modern football is stop-start, it is go again, speed, tempo, quality. So those two have put their marker down. Of course, with our boys, we have got some quick ones.
“You just want good players and good people. Quality and speed, of course, is a big thing in football nowadays. The more x-factors you have in a team, the better you are.”
For United, a counter-attacking style might suit them right to the ground. Other than perhaps Paul Pogba, the club’s current midfield options really lack genuine passers of the ball who are able to dictate the tempo and break the lines of play with their incisive technique and vision. The likes of Fred and Jesse Lingard in central areas, and James, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford further forward all do their best work in transitions.
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All are incredibly quick and thrive when the action is end to end, mostly possessing solid dribbling ability as well. Rashford’s winner against Spurs was counter-attacking at its best; soak up the pressure, a superb outlet ball from the central midfielder, an off-the-shoulder run from the striker and a clinical finish. It was smash-and-grab and oh was it exciting.
So whilst United may not dominate games with their possession next season, hitting teams on the break with their lightning quick stars could be the “x-factor” that the gaffer is yearning for.