Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deployed unique tactics that proved crucial to Manchester United defeating Manchester City in the derby on Sunday. This was a vital win as it allowed the Red Devils to climb the Premier League table.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Tactics Trump Man City
The formation chose for the Manchester derby by Solskjaer was essential in United‘s victory. On paper, it was shown as a 3-4-3, or a 3-4-1-2, but it was actually much more complicated than that. The formation was very fluid, allowing United to sit back defensively and waste City‘s possession, but when the Reds won the ball, the entire team surged forward and changed formation, to allow for more dangerous counters.
On defense, United were playing a 5-2-1-2, with their outside midfielders dropping back into the defense, and the central midfielders going into a bit more defensive roles. The outside midfielders were Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams, who are usually in the defensive line, so they were able to drop back and play comfortably.
On the other hand, these two players are also great to play in midfield because of their pace and vision. These two players were integral to the formation because of their ability to play both in attack and defence.
Daniel James was the most surprising name in the squad. He hasn’t been consistent and is only named on some weeks. However, there was good reason for Solskjaer to include him in the squad. James’ most valuable asset is his blistering pace, which was greatly utilized in this game.
After City lose the ball they like to aggressively press for the first few seconds, to ensure they are not caught on the counter. To get around this, Solskjaer placed Dan James in a position where he could be sent long balls. After receiving, he would use his pace to easily beat Oleksandr Zinchenko and Nicholas Otamendi during one-on-one moments. James would then send in crosses to Anthony Martial, who was playing as a target man. This allowed United to bypass multiple City defensive lines and break on the counter.
United allowed City to keep the majority of the possession, knowing that possession doesn’t necessarily mean goals. United only had 27% possession and yet they had more shots and more shots on target than City. City made 754 passes in the game, opposed to United’s 292. However, United’s passes were all productive, splitting defensive lines and making progress forward. On the other hand, City were suffocated by United’s formation and gameplan, being forced to make a lot of unproductive lateral and backward passes.
When United did finally win possession, they would quickly break on the counter and send long balls to James and Martial, utilizing their pace. The Red Devils also took advantage of how wide City got on the attack, so they could counter quickly through the gaps.
Martial’s goal from Bruno Fernandes‘ set-piece looked like it was taken straight from the training ground. Bruno chipped a pass over the wall to Martial, who was unguarded, and he smashed under Ederson at his near post. Martial started his run early, and Bruno seemed to read the play perfectly, leading viewers to believe it was planned.