Van Gaar criticized the team performance in the after-game press, and he pointed out that his team had been lucky to win this game. His criticism somehow is wrong because the team performance is not too bad overall, but the team does not play as he expected in the beginning of the game. On the other hand, Burnley showed up with a fantastic performance in this game, even though they lost. They dominated Manchester United in the first half.
First of all, take a look at the starting lineups of both teams,
Both of the starting lineups are expected at all. There is no surprise on the Burnley side, which is one of the most constant starting lineups in the league. On the other hand, on Manchester United side, Rooney is on the right wing, Di Maria on the mid field, and Januzaj on the left wing. Blind played as the single defensive midfielder. I will analyze their movement in detail later. In general, both of the two teams have their key players in the team.
Now, let us take a look at the first half. These two teams scored three goals in this half, and even though Manchester United was leading 2 to 1 in the end of the half, these 45 minutes was arguably the worst performance for Manchester United in this season. Manchester United was suppressed in this half, let us take a look at what happen and why,
We will talk about the Manchester United first goal later, first we will analyze how Manchester United moved the ball in offensive side. In the MU starting lineups photo above, we can see that Di Maria was initially assigned as Advanced Midfielder. Different from what was assigned in the beginning, Di Maria moved to left, Januzaj moved to the right, and Rooney played in mid. Van Gaar expected Rooney to play as a winger, but in fact Rooney is not a typical winger, therefore he can control the ball, but cannot dribble forward. At 12th minute, Rooney received the ball in the right wing, which was the first and last time he tried to make a move on the left wing,
Rooney has no attempt or effort to dribble forward, but quickly passed ball backward. At the same time, Di Maria moved to the left since 1st minute.
Di Maria showed up in the left wing at the beginning and stayed there in the first half. Januzaj, however, did not move to the right wing at the same time, so we can see this following situation a couple of times in Manchester United offense,
Three people are waiting for the ball in front, Januzaj, Van Persie, and Falcao. Literally, three forwards were on the field at the same time.
In the before-game press, Van Gaar indicated that Rooney has the talent to be a midfielder, and in fact he proved that he can be a decent good midfielder. His play style was close to his predecessor Paul Scholes. Let us take a look at how he was shining,
in the 19th minute, Rooney received the ball and no Burnley player can give him any pressure at that time. He saw Di Maria was waving his hand and stating that no one is marking him. Rooney dribbled a bit and make a long pass and find Di Maria.
In this example, Rooney shows his great vision and offensive awareness as an experienced soccer player. As a mid fielder, he still needs to get familiar with his teammates movement.
Di Maria was planning to dribble forward and Rooney’s pass landed right on Di Maria rather than in front of Di Maria, and Di Maria barely control the ball. If the ball located as following place,
If the ball landed in the black circle, Di Maria could quickly dribble forward and earned a good chance to make a cross. Van Persie had been moving forward and was likely to get a good spot for an aerial duel.
Rooney also make several plays as a box-to-box player as stated above. The reason why I considered him only as a decent midfielder but not anything better can be ascribed to the fact that he still convinced himself as a advance forward somehow subconsciously. Lets take a look at what he did in the first half,
In 26th minute, after Di Maria retained the ball after the free kick. At this moment, obviously Di Maria would make a cross into the box under no pressure from the opponent player. 4 MU players were waiting in the box already, which were more than enough. Rooney, however, was moving forward instead of take care of the large empty space circled in orange. This is one of the major reasons why Manchester United cannot obtain the possession in the first half, they were rarely in the right position to stop the counter attack of opponent team in the front court after losing the ball.
Let us take a look at the counter attack of Burnley after Di Maria failed to make a cross in the offense above.
Burnley only used four passes to move the ball to the MU box. Burnley focused on their right wing. Most of their plays started from Boyd, the right winger on the Burnley side. In the beginning of the game, he switched his position with Kightly and moved to the left. Boyd showed his fast speed in this half. Rojo did not find any solution to stop his pressing. Let us take a look at the first goal by Burnley,
In 11th minute, Burnley regained the possession after Rojo cleared the ball. Rojo’s defensive position was way too passive. He was too much worried about if Burnley player would cut off, so he did not press the ball holder. This lack of effort allowed Trippier to have enough space to make a cross.
Why could Ings receive the cross and score easily? Let us take a look at what Smalling and Ings were doing when Trippier created the space to make a great cross,
Smalling was completely losing his focus on Ings and thinking about whether Trippier was able to make a cross, and Ings definitely knew what would happen in the next second and dashed forward. It was too late for Smalling to make any movement to stop the goal.
This was the first attempt that Burnley explored their right wing in this game. Before this goal, they concentrated on pressing the left wing with Kightly. Rojo was the weakness of the team in the game. His defense was same as his offense especially in the first half, bad. He made several passing mistakes which caused dangerous counter attacks. Except that he made severe passing mistakes, his clearance attempts rarely cleared the defensive pressure. His clearance were always landed back to the opponents in a short distance away from his position. Also, Rojo was famous for his ability to dash as a winger, but in this half, he could not make any offensive movement, because Di Maria and Januzaj were playing in his usual area already.
Blind, assigned as the single defensive midfielder, seemed out of stamina this game. He stayed quite deep, and almost moved as another central defender. As we stated above, Rooney always moved forward and left a large empty space behind. Blind’s major job was to shut down all this empty space, but he did not cover this space, but rather play passively as a defensive midfielder. Let us take a look at this instance,
Blind circled in red, was quite separated from Rooney, if the ball was intercepted in this situation, player on the Burnley side would have a big space to organize their counter. Also, MU could not press the ball holder and regain the possession. This is the major reason why MU could not gain possession in the first half.
Van Gaar also found these problems in the team performance, so he made a couple of adjustments and somehow stopped the decline of the team. Before we talk about the adjustments, we need to take a look at the set pieces performance in both teams. Do not forget that MU scored twice with some brilliant and smart set piece performance.
Let us take a look at the first goal of MU,
Van Gaar preferred to send two or three players next to the goalkeeper as shown above. One player would be standing wide and getting ready to move forward.
One of the two players standing next to the goalkeeper, in this case he was Van Persie, would quickly move the right, and the other would try to draw the attention of the defensive side, and create a space for him to control the ball. Do not forget that, the player circled in red, Falcao, started to move forward.
Van Persie passed the ball to Falcao with his heading, and as we can see that, the defensive line of Burnley was staying around the goal and left a space for Smalling to jump. In the end, Smalling scored.
As we can see, the set piece offense was well-organized, so we can see that they must put so effort in set piece offense during their training.
Now, let us talk about the adjustments Van Gaar made in the second half.
First, Rooney was not allowed to move forward, and required to stay deep.
Second, Di Maria moved to the right wing, and Januzaj stayed in the left wing. Therefore, Rojo got the space to move forward.
Third, Herrera (substituted Blind at 42th minute) was allowed to move forward and participate the offense.
In the first half, the MU right wing was almost abandoned because Rooney moved to the mid. After the change, Di Maria could make play in this side.
In 64th minute, Di Maria successfully made a breakthrough in the right wing.
Rooney’s position. He become a deep-lying player in the second half and allowed Herrera to move forward. Also Rooney’s defense was underestimated. In fact, he and Di Maria made a great effort in the defense side. Herrera likes to make risky passes, so if he make any mistake in the front area, he would not cause any fatal situation for the team.
Herrera likes to make risky passes, so if he make any mistake in the front area, he would not cause any fatal situation for the team. Also, he could consistently press in front, and regained the possession for the team.
These are the reasons why Manchester United improved a lot in the second half.
In General, For Burnley, even though they are sitting in the 19th spot right now, they are a good team and has a great chance to avoid relegation. On the other hand, Manchester United should consider replacing Blind’s position with Herrera if they continue using Rooney as a central midfielder. Also, they should never leave Rojo in any 1 on 1 takeons by any chance.