This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
After all the praise and sense of revival following the 4-0 win over rivals Chelsea, Manchester United have been brought firmly back down to Earth with a couple of disappointing results.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side tore Chelsea apart in the opening Premier League game of the season, with a scintillating display of counter-attacking football, revelling in the Blues’ high defensive line and open space in midfield. Against Wolves and Palace however, United looked devoid of any ideas coming up against a packed defence, perfectly happy with protecting the edge of their own box.
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Against Roy Hodgson’s side at the weekend, the Red Devils boasted an incredible 71% possession and managed 22 shots at goal. However, only three of those were actually on target – the same amount Palace had. United lacked any kind of creativity through the middle third, and Jesse Lingard’s continued involvement despite his poor form continues to baffle.
Indeed, such was United’s inability to create much from their plethora of attacking stars, Ashley Young, who came on in the 33rd minute at left-back, finished the game with the side’s most key passes. It perhaps says it all that two out of the Red Devils’ top three for total passes were Victor Lindelof (90) and Harry Maguire (81).
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Solskjaer’s men struggled to break a resolute Palace defence down, and endured the same problem against Wolves too. Counter-attacking is all well and good against teams that want to take the game to you, but against sides who employ that same tactic themselves, a plan B is needed.
The Red Devils simply huffed and puffed without going anywhere in meaningful fashion, and it represents an ominous sign of how things may play out over the course of the season.
If Solskjaer cannot embrace the possibility of adding different layers and styles to United’s attack, then their defeat to Palace will become the norm, rather than the exception this season.