Both Manchester United and Fulham had bad results coming into this game. Man Utd lost 2-1 last week at Stoke and Fulham had only managed 1 win in their last 8 matches, including an embarrassing extra time defeat to Sheffield Utd in the FA Cup, so both teams were looking to bounce back and get something from this match. Manchester United were clear favourites but there was extra incentive for Rene Muelensteen to get something from his first trip back to Old Trafford since being sacked summer
Manchester United In game formation
Despite the 4-2-3-1 many people thought Manchester United were using, we can see that both Rooney and Van Persie were pushed up and ready to get into the box for crosses, which was clearly Moyes’ game-plan. Mata would come inside and Carrick played more like a central midfielder than his usual holding role, which Fletcher took up. The blue circle is showing the space which United failed to exploit and the perfect area for that ‘No10’ they crave.
So right from the first whistle we can see how Fulham were going to try and stop Manchester United from playing centrally and stay compact without the ball. The shape that you can see for Utd is typical of them in the first half trying to make the pitch big with Ashley Young and Rafael providing the width. Both Rooney and Van Persie stayed high and didn’t exploit the space, meaning that even when Mata came inside, Fulham had an overload in their advantage in central midfield.
Sunday was frustrating for Manchester United and they showed yet again the same problems from previous weeks. Going wide constantly, no creative ideas, frustration and lack of cutting edge; not to mention their defensive frailties at the other end of the pitch
Anyone who watched this match could see that United wanted to get crosses into the box and the stats at the end of the game showed that they attempted 82 crosses against Fulham.
In an attacking sense the Fulham match highlighted two main problems, the lack of a link between midfield and attack i.e attacking midfielder, and lack of other ideas or creativity.
Central areas and Number 10’s
Even this early in the match you can see the amount of space available in central midfield. Mata makes a move toward the ball but so does Young and they both end up going back to where they started. Carrick was playing a central midfield role and the position he’s holding in the picture above could be taken up by Fletcher realesing Carrick to go and support the attack.
We have Carrick on the ball and trying to play out from the goalkeeper. Carrick has received the ball with plenty of time and space but he has no options, and none of his teammates come back to help. Rooney had moved to central midfield but as soon as Carrick got the ball he made a forward run. Carrick had no short options and played a long ball over to the left wing.
When Mata got into the position between the lines and found a pocket of space, he didn’t receive the ball on many occasions. Here we can see him in some space and in a position to potentially hurt Fulham by receiving the ball ina dangerous area. Ashley Young is on the ball and focused on getting the ball into the box so doesn’t look up and crosses straight to the Fulham goalkeeper.
Mata manages to get himself on the ball and with time and space to play but rushes his decision and plays a long ball to Van Persie and loses possession. Mata can be deadly to the opposition when he pick of the ball in this type of position but perhaps the scoreline was forcing the whole team to rush. Fulham have done really well in transition to defense and managed to get bodies behind the ball with their defense being compact. Steve Sidwell is making a recovery run to get back into position.
Crosses for nought
It was a day of crosses into the box by Manchester United, 82 to be exact, and this picture shows a familiar story. Young is being pressed aggressively and ends up putting his cross out of play
This is one of many, many of the same example that happened time after time in this match. Utd looked to cross even when they were vastly outnumbered in the box. In this case it’s 5v2 in favour of the Fulham defenders and Mata still crosses the ball.
Fulham’s first goal came from a cross into the box after a fantastic late run by Steve Sidwell. Vidic makes a mistake by going with the Fulham centre forward and Evra just stands watching as Sidwell makes his way into the box to score, despite being in a great position to tuck in and stop the chance. This Fulham goal came after 10 pass sequence with the last pass bing the cross to Sidwell.
Manchester United had another bad day, looked hurried and lacking in ideas but as soon as they went 2-1 up they looked like a different team and were passing the ball around. Just after their second goal they played a 19 pass sequence with almost every player touch thing ball. Utd and Moyes are under pressure and it’s creeping into how they play and how easily their heads drop.
Fulham played very well against Utd but it’s the games against the teams around them that will make the difference and they’ve not looked brilliant in those matches.
A difficult last few months of the season for both teams.