Manchester United 0-1 Barcelona – Valverde’s approach pays off
Barcelona started with their gala XI, but with one inclusion: Semedo. Compact 433, with focus on overloading central spaces, something which actually helped when scoring the goal. United started with a 352, relying heavily on Pogba to create from midfield (it clearly didn’t work) – In the first half, Young quite frequently moved down to shift the formation to a fluid 442, with Fred acting as a wide midfielder. A tactical analysis by Beto.
In the first half, United’s plan was simple. As expected, they tried to cut Alba’s overlaps since the first minute. Both Lindelof and Young stayed very close to him and Coutinho at all times, basically marking Coutinho off the game in the first half.
Busquets and Rakitic were basically suffocating themselves in the very crowded central areas . Arthur, although good offensively, was invisible on defence. Dumb mistakes by Busquets, and McTominay and Fred really looked like the superior midfield.
On Barça’s right side, Shaw basically man marked Messi in the first half. This was a benefit at the end, because Messi drifiting to central spaces allowed Shaw to be dragged out of position and therefore Busquets pulled off that pass.
After the goal, Barça tried to take control of the match. The risks were completely minimized, and Valverde’s conservative approach to this game was clearly present.
In the start of the second half, United’s midfield totally dominated Barca. Valverde wanted to avoid this situation as fast as he could, and therefore subbed in Vidal and Sergi Roberto. Therefore, Vidal added much needed muscle to the team, and basically marked Fred off the game. (Something that was much needed) Sergi Roberto though, he was always a threat through the whole game. His role was simple, stretch out the field. He constantly dragged Pogba out of position.
And although his final ball left much to be desired, Dalot just couldn’t keep up. Ole noticed this, and changed his set-up completely. Once Lingaard came in, United lost control of the match . Barça played it simple, and passed it around the midfield.
Sergi continued to be a threat, as United had no real LM. It’s not the first time we have seen Valverde try this, as vs Lyon away he did exactly the same. Sergi, although not the best player, is very useful when used to his strengths.
Now, the switch to a 4ATB for United made it very difficult for Messi to find half spaces that he could play in. Apart from that, Smalling’s challenge left him basically playing with a broken nose.
Overall, I think Valverde’s approach worked very well. Keep in mind Barça come from playing vs Atletico, and United had 18 days of rest. He had no intention of finishing the game here, instead of securing a solid result. In addition, we don’t have to be the best team to win the CL. Look at Madrid, 3 years In a row with horrible football. As long as we take advantage of our home games and play very solid in hard away games such as these, we will the competition.
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