Alexander Buttner jumped to the defence of his Manchester United teammates after the weekend’s defeat to West Brom and claimed the club isn’t in crisis despite a poor start to the season. Unfortunately, his inclusion at the weekend is a sign of the problems with the playing squad at Old Trafford.
Buttner was brought in last summer by Sir Alex Ferguson to offer competition to Evra for the left back slot, and it worked as Evra’s performances picked up and helped win the title for Manchester United. The Dutch left back himself didn’t excel though despite scoring on his Premier League debut against Wigan and was near to a loan move away from Manchester but the failure to sign either Baines or Coentrao meant he was needed for another season.
Looking at Buttner’s defensive stats from the game you may think he had a good game, with a tackle success of 75% and winning 33% of aerial 50-50’s normal for a Manchester United full back playing against a mid-table team at Old Trafford. However, these mask the poor positional awareness that was present throughout the game by Buttner. He, like many modern day full backs, likes to get forward and he is fairly adequate at it, one of his runs down the wing won the free kick Rooney scored from, but the problem lies at his willingness to get back when he wanders up field and loses possession, something that happened 14 times during the match – the third most for Manchester United behind Rooney and Nani.
In the first half Kagawa played on the left wing offering unconventional defensive reassurance to Buttner, and despite playing only 45 minutes the Japanese international made the most tackles for Manchester United with 4. The introduction of Adnan Januzaj at half time meant he wasn’t up to game speed, yet still won 2 tackles – the same amount as Anderson and Carrick combined – showing that West Brom were targeting United’s left side.
The first instance in the second half occurred when Sessegnon played a clever one-two with Amalfitano which left Buttner’s body shape all over the place due to the defender turning his back to Sessegnon after the first ball was played, and resulted in a unsuccessful lugging tackle that ruled Buttner out for the rest of the move. With this, the rest of the defence had to shift to the left and with the help of an intelligent run by Amalfitano opened up space in the middle for West Brom to exploit and only a good De Gea save prevented them from scoring.
The first West Brom goal shows another Buttner disappearance which caused the Manchester United defence problems that they didn’t handle well. The yellow box shows the space Amalfitano had to run into with Buttner failing to track back after a breakdown in attack and Januzaj always being on the heels of the West Brom goalscorer. Again Evans and Ferdinand have to come over to the left with the build up being similar to the last chance, but with Amalfitano and Sessegnon, who leaves Evans in no mans land, in reserve roles. The result is four Manchester United players surrounding Amalfitano, shown in the yellow box in the image on the right, yet only Ferdinand being goal-side.
It is harsh to solely blame Buttner for the defeat against West Brom, for the second goal he was left with two men due to lack of defensive support from midfield, but having a large squad with good back up is important in modern football to be able to compete both on the domestic front and the European front. Manchester United having either Baines or Coentrao at their disposal at the weekend could have prevented some of the situations Buttner’s poor play created and adds itself to David Moyes’ ever-growing list of problems.