We have seen many open games involving Manchester United over the years, with their philosophy to play attacking football, however we may have seen it more so this season than any other.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have pretty much gone with the attitude of ‘you score and we will score more’ so far this campaign, scoring a hat full of goals but also conceding far more than we are used to seeing. In a strange way, has the vulnerability at the back benefitted United this season?
Now I say this in the fact that teams may have been more willing to take the game to them and attack, knowing that the defence is susceptible to conceding chances. With the forward players United have at their disposal, they have been able to compensate for poor defending with this and the signing of Robin van Persie has certainly added an extra clinical edge to the front line.
At the end of last season, United had scored 86 while letting in 33 goals, and after just 23 games this season they have scored 57 and already conceded 30. That’s a staggering amount of goals for them to have let in, but it has worked so far especially with rivals Manchester City struggling to reproduce their form from last season.
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The Citizens have found it a lot harder to finish teams off this term which could be a case of Roberto Mancini’s men now just experiencing the territory of being Premier League Champions with other teams naturally more cautious when playing them. This is something United have faced many times down the years, with teams ‘parking the bus’ as the phrase goes. They have however found a way to come through it and continue their success, something which City need to be able to handle. I personally feel their lack of width makes it very difficult at times as it’s often not possible to pass through teams and you need a plan B, as good as the likes of David Silva are.
Of course we could also reverse the initial argument by looking at it in the sense that teams feel that sitting back against United is pointless as they will score anyway, whereas they may feel City can be contained easier.
United’s team is set up to attack with two attacking full backs as well as two wingers so are likely to create more chances. The Red Devils also lack a real tough tackling holding player with Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick now seeming to be the first choice pairing in the centre of midfield. While Carrick does a job in terms of interceptions and has improved defensively in general this season with areas such as his positioning, he still doesn’t provide the cover that a proper defensive midfielder would. Attack is certainly United’s best form of defence.
Although this style of play may have served them well in the league, they will certainly need to adapt slightly if they are to progress further in the knockout stages of the Champions League. While Madrid are not the best themselves defensively, they have the familiar face of Cristiano Ronaldo to punish any holes in United’s backline. I do feel Ferguson’s side have begun to show improvements at the back in recent weeks though, and it is no surprise that this has coincided with the return of captain Nemanja Vidic.
This will also bode well for them in the league as we start reaching the business end of the season, and the games become even more difficult with each team fighting for their respective goals for the end of the season.
So far though, United’s excellent attack along with their patchy defence has worked well for them one way or another. The theory that sides now feel more confident to take the game to them is just an observation and could simply be a coincidence with the fact that more managers seem to want to play attacking football now, with the Premier League also a more open league in general than we have seen in the past.