Tactical Analysis: Solskjaer’s Moment of Genius Against Liverpool

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United and Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool gives their side instructions during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford on October 20, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Time ebbed away at Stretford End, Jurgen Klopp’s animated look on the touchline said it all, this was a terrible game by all standards.

The image of Sadio Mane pulling his teammates as they celebrated the goal told the tale of players at odds with themselves in the game, unsure what they wanted; A draw? A win? There were six minutes to play. Maybe a point was enough.

 

The perspective that they had missed Mo Salah was perhaps misleading. Salah has no goals against United.

 

Last season at Old Trafford, he had been guilty of missing two gilt edged chances. The year before, he was as Nigerians say “anon”.

 

Jurgen Klopp, looking for a first win at the Theatre of Dreams in Four visits (3D 1L) as Reds boss set up in a usual 4-3-3, trusting his regular midfield trio in big games alongside his standard forward line bar Salah.

 

Possibly, Liverpool may have been gotten, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to go with a 3-4-2-1 worked to perfection. Set up in two blocks; a low block of seven and a high block of three; Stifle the reds and play direct balls behind the defense, utilizing the pace of the attacking trio in the process (that was Liverpool in the early Klopp years and maybe till now).

 

Rashford beat Van Dijk and Matip time and again with late runs, timing them to perfection. The goal, a perfect interpretation of what Ole wanted, win (or wrestle) the ball quickly, release the inverted wingers with direct balls while Liverpool’s defense was at sea and then strike.

They got two opportunities of that ilk, one was the goal, the other, Andreas Pereira taking too long to decide.

 

That particular moment, the only blot in the Brazilians all action performance. Covering every blade of grass. Daniel James, perhaps the only better performer.

The Welshman reminding everyone of the legendary Ryan Giggs in his prime.

The system implemented, facilitated his play regardless. United’s right was their most potent source of attack.

 

No surprise, Mike Phelan called Aaron Wan Bissaka, another enterprising outlet on the day to issue instructions going forward with the crosses and dangerous diagonals.

The diagonals would have complemented Rashford’s excellent hold up play. No surprise, the axis of Lindelof-McTominay-AWB-James contributed the goal.

 

The goal, disappointing from a Liverpool point of view, had started from a loss of the ball in a dangerous area. One bad touch, a fall and voila. Divock Origi, a hero prior, had a stinker.

 

The direct ball would beat Andrew Robertson, who was already caught high up the pitch and in a losing battle in the race with James, who had a sea of green in front of him and with the vision to send a cross that would meet its recipient like a well-packaged gift evading the gangling legs of VVD and Matip. One wondered where Alexander Arnold was in all of this?

 

The Scouse was caught out high, with no help from Jordan Henderson or Fabinho. Rashford not believing the what space he had, pounced. Had Liverpool’s fullbacks failed?

 

Maybe not, whenever the reds attack, they switch a 2-3-1-4 with the Fullbacks attacking outlets, Meaning the central midfielders drift wide to the full back positions to receive the ball from the Centre backs and then tuck in once the ball is advanced.

 

One such situation is the build up to the goal, Robertson and TAA are so high, Keita is the closest to the backline when carrying the ball, sucking in the space in front of the defense before releasing the Scot with a pass, and then, boom.

 

Unfortunately, the system only works when Liverpool play football, which they didn’t play yesterday. The team ended playing a 4-4-2 with Mane and Firmino as strikers, which in actual sense was a 4-2-3-1, and then a 2-2-5-1 in transition.

 

Both Managers may see this as two points lost, but the tactical ingenuity to play Marcos Rojo,a left footed centre back ahead of the “injured” Axel Tuanzebe was a blessing in disguise. Mane was ineffective as was Firmino.

 

A dour game in all, but Jurgen Klopp must face reality, no team will dance to your tune. Just because you are the best coach in the World doesn’t translate to teams paying your team a lot of respect.he must find a way to win. Nobody cares how. Its what makes City a team in a league of their own.

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