Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Manchester United's back four on rope

Gary Neville details the training the Manchester United class of ‘92 went through, in the youth squad, on The Overlap podcast:

I remember Nobby Stiles and Eric Harrison — they had us on rope. And basically, back four would be on rope, and obviously, the premise being if your left back moves out towards his right winger, you all come across. And we were literally on rope in training. And the idea of those sort of simple things.

This is a great exercise because it’s a simple concept to apply in a match. It’s not something the current Manchester United squad practice, and that was made evident particularly in their 4-0 loss to Crystal Palace.

Figure 1.1 - Casemiro jumps forward.
Figure 1.2 - Manchester United's back-line organization for Crystal Palace's first goal.
Figure 2.1 - Casemiro jumps forward.
Figure 2.2 - Manchester United's back-line organization for Crystal Palace's second goal.
Figure 3.1 - Jonny Evans jumps forward.
Figure 3.2 - Manchester United's back-line organization for Crystal Palace's fourth goal.

Attach that rope to the back four. Three of the four goals conceded to Palace were the result of this strange defensive organization.

They are overly aggressive positionally but the midfielders lack awareness. They don’t cover for defenders when they jump forward, which leaves them vulnerable once a defender moves out of position.

I can’t understand why they do this. It seems like a simple concept to cover the space the defenders vacate.

Gary Neville goes further to explain how the class of ‘92 defense trained to gain awareness:

And then I think of — I’ve just thought of another thing with Don Howe. Do you know the one at the back post when the ball’s over there? Don Howe used to have two people on the […] edge of the halfway line. And he used to put a different color bib up. So basically, if you’re ball watching as a defender. Let’s say you’re a right back and the ball’s coming from that side, you need to know what color that bib was all the time. If he changed it, red, that player running in there (gestures behind) or running inside, you always had an awareness. So that was unbelievable.

When you hear about older squads and think, ‘those teams didn’t have tactics’, they did, these are the tactics. The simple concepts in training.

Match: Crystal Palace 4-0 Manchester United, 6 May 2024

Back to top Share on Twitter Email this post Copy link