Manchester United are out of the UEFA Europa League now and so are City, I can't help but be impressed by the performances of Bieslas Athletic Bilbao. They really showed what a group of technical players can do. Manchester United looked very average on Thursday night and a lot of the players had a very tough night.
United just couldn't deal with the pressing game of Bilbao, they chased the ball and closed United down high up the pitch and our passing game just wasn't up to par. I saw far too many long balls played from the back a lack of mobility from team mates meant that there were not enough options for our players when put under pressure. This resulted in Man United giving posession up time and again. Bilbao basically hammered United and it was depressing to watch.
Manchester United I feel, need to increase the accuracy of passing and to show more positivity when in posession, too many times on Thursday Man United seemed to be uncomfortable on the ball and not able to retain the ball when pressed. Newcastle, Tottenham Barcelona and Man City have all used this high pressing tactic against Unted to good effect and I wonder what needs to change to nullify this this tactic.
I think that losing Anderson in midfield to injury is a loss because he is confident on the ball and was part of the team that early on this season showed crisp sharp passing and very good retention in the midle of the park. Early on there seemed to be more movement off the ball from Cleverley and his other midfield counterparts, it allowed for a fluid style and some very nice one touch passing moves which sreated goals galore against Arsenal and Tottenham at Old Trafford.
Unfortunately Anderson has spent most of the season injured again and I wonder if he will ever become a regular starter for Manchester United. He now has a hamstring injury that will keep him out for 5-6 weeks. Maybe it is true that United need to sign a midfielder or two, maybe I wouldn't be saying this if Man United had not suffered record numbers of injuries this year weakening the side undoubtedly. Maybe some teams have just been using this tactic against Manchester United and we only need to adjust slightly but for me it's a bit of a worry.
For me, the problem I describe is a common one for English Premier League teams who emphasise physicality and strenghth over pure technical ability. The evolution of Spanish footbal is no coincidence and throughout La Liga teams can be seen to show the tika-taka style that has dominated the highest level of football in recent years. The players are smaller and I would suggest aerobically fitter and more capable of covering ever greater distances on the pitch. When coupled with unity and desire as shown by Athletic Bilbao it provides a beautiful display of attacking football that is of a higher intensity than ever seen before in football.
These little technicians are obviously better at running than your Andy Carrols of this world and seem to be able to do it for the full 90 minutes. The reduction in hard tackling and physical contact on the pitch lends itself even further to the dominance of these types of players. I must add that these smaller footballers are very tough and recieve knocks from much bigger guys but it seems that they aren't really at any disadvantage due to better protection from referees.
So as it stands only Chelsea managed to remain in a European competition to this point, having seen all the English teams fall by the wayside. I must now look to the Premier League for my kicks, I have my ticket for Wolves away trip on Sunday and I can't wait!
Manchester United are now top of the league and have the chance to make the gap 4 points to 2nd placed Man City before they play on Monday night. C'mon the reds!
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