It’s another semifinal disappointment for Manchester United. Rivals and critics are making fun of it and they are rightfully doing so too. United Fans on the other hand feel lost for words to describe the pain they are feeling now.
It is the fourth straight semifinal defeat in all competitions for Manchester United. You can make all sorts of reasons for the loss, from the manager to the players, even to the refereeing staff. Lmao!
One thing remains clear though, United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer haven’t won a trophy together. That trophy drought isn’t going to end soon until United and Solskjaer fix certain issues.
Issues Facing Ole And United
Like it or not, Ole’s United have a bad habit of not being able to win the important games. They usually do this by either:
- Losing balls in sensitive areas of the pitch (areas opponents can easily score from).
- Surrendering possession and hoping to see out the win.
- Difficulty in Breaking down Top Defenses.
- Conceding from Set plays.
We’ve seen United escape from these situations times but then in semifinals, they don’t get that luck.
This is because the teams you play in the semi’s are very good. This is coupled with the fact that the match is a decisive one, so they try their best to use maximally opportunities gifted to them.
Losing Balls in Sensitive Areas of the Pitch(areas opponents can easily score from)
United are probably counter-attack kings of England presently but they are poor in keeping the ball under pressure. With the likes of Rashford, Fernandes, Greenwood, Martial, James, Cavani, you are getting a lot of pacy forwards.
However, United do struggle to pass out from the back against high pressing sides. They do make mistakes as they are gradually becoming a possession-based team.
“Big teams” aren’t supposed to be found wanting in trying to build up from the back. Funny enough, United punishes other teams for the same issue as well.
However, when you lose the ball in sensitive areas especially in your half, you grant the opponent an excellent counter-attacking opportunity. These things don’t go unpunished by the big teams just like United does to others.
Surrendering Possession and Hoping To See Out a Match
Man United can’t seem to be able to see out games. If they surrender possession, they become pegged back as a result. Along the line, they will almost certainly concede (as seen in the matches against Tottenham, Brighton, Sheffield, Leicester, etc)
The nature of Man United defending suggests that if you keep on trying, you will get a goal. Ole and United need to find a consistent working formula for seeing out games either by controlling the game or by sitting back defending their lead and countering at any given opportunity.
Usually Man United win games by scoring a winner and sitting back. As the opponent presses for an equalizer, United preys on their mistakes. If United gets one, they use it expertly to ensure the win.
However, when they don’t use their chances well or don’t get a chance to counter, they most likely will concede. (as seen in the matches against Brighton and Leicester)
Difficulty In Breaking Down Top Defenses
Not just top defenses, United are poor in breaking down defensively well-organized opponents. They often depend on penalties to be able to win. (as seen against Brighton and Aston Villa).
That also has a hand in why the only goals they have scored in the last three semifinals have been penalties (MUN 1-3 CHE, MUN 1-2 SEV, MUN 0-2 MCI).
MUN 1-3 CHE 19/20 FAC Semifinal
MUN 1-2 SEV 19/20 Europa League Semifinal
The penalties have been only two for that matter. This clearly shows that Man United do struggle to break down elite defenses. It indicates that United are not yet at the top level.
The other semifinal which was the first of 2019/20 season for United saw them come up against Man City The first leg ended MUN 1-3 MCI, the second MCI 0-1 MUN. United also struggled to score and had to rely on fast breaks and Setpieces.
The first leg saw Rashford score the only United goal via a Greenwood assist following a bloody counterattack at Old Trafford.
At Etihad in the second leg, it was Matic who scored via a poor clearance following a Fred freekick.
So alas, United do struggle to score after all.
Conceding From Set-pieces
For the record, the two goals scored against United by City (in the Carabao cup) are both from Set plays (one free-kick, one corner). You have to include poor defending too.
Indeed, out of the 24 goals conceded by United this season in the EPL, seven(7) have come through Set plays. That is the third-highest in the division.
Notable Set-piece goals conceded by United include the ones conceded against PSG, Leeds, Sheffield United.
John Stones’s opener came after United’s center-backs, first Lindelof and the most especially Harry Maguire failed to stop Phil Foden’s free-kick from reaching the defender(Stones). Stones’ run was also not tracked by left-back Luke Shaw.
Fernandinho’s goal was derived from a poor Aaron Wan-Bissaka clearance following a corner, the right-back’s header going straight to the Brazilian who didn’t pass up the opportunity.
Solskjaer had this to say when asked about the goals his team conceded.
“That’s a worry, of course.,” Solskjær said. “It’s a worry when you concede goals but we have defended well at times. Against Man City when you defend as well as you do in open play and you don’t concede too many chances you’re disappointed [with what happened].
“In big games against good players and good teams, we lose that bit of focus. It’s a big part of football – so many goals are conceded from set plays. We do have a good record of winning the first ball, but when we don’t it seems like it goes in every time. It’s something that we have addressed, that we need to do better at; we seem to suffer [badly] from this. When we don’t get the first contact we have been punished quite severely and more often than anyone else.”
They say one of the first steps to beating your opponent is knowing your own faults.
Will he work on it? certainly!
Will he succeed in it? who knows?