Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Manchester United are too good at maintaining numerical superiority in transition

May 5, 2023 - Manchester United did an incredible job at always maintaining numerical superiority in defensive transition against Brighton yesterday. They did the same in the last match against Brighton in the FA Cup.

Figure 1.1 - 6v3
Figure 2.1 - 5v2
Figure 3.1 - 4v2
Figure 3.2 - 4v2

Throughout the season Manchester United have had issues in the second half of matches against tougher opponents, their endurance tails off.

This obsession with having a +1 in transition might be contributing to their lack of energy at the end of matches. 90 minutes of full sprinting up and down the pitch is not sustainable.

Figure 4.1 - Out of possession shape of Brighton and Manchester United. Image courtesy @DatoBHJ

Manchester United’s disciplined compactness to defend within the confines of the center of the pitch left space out wide for Brighton, space they didn’t take advantage of. It’s hard to breakdown a team that has a numerical superiority and is compact. The pitch is small, the spaces are tight, and the passing lanes are shut.

It’s hard to suggest a change because in both matches, Manchester United effectively stemmed the flow of Brighton’s attack as best as most could while remaining threatening in attack.

If it wasn’t for Luke Shaw’s outstretched hand in the 96th minute, to gift Brighton a penalty, they would have kept two clean sheets.

If they wanted to be less conservative, they could commit one less midfielder to defend, match them man-to-man, and threaten Brighton more on the counter once they win back the ball. In most instances they had a +2 advantage, they could settle for a +1.

Save the energy of one of their midfielders, slow down Brighton’s forwards in transition, and allow United’s defense to recover in a jog rather than a sprint.

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