Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had a relatively gentle introduction to life as Manchester United’s manager, with games against Cardiff and Huddersfield navigated easily enough. This run continued with a game against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side at Old Trafford on Sunday night, and the Red Devils duly obliged, running out 4-1 winners to end 2018 on a relatively happy note. Solskjaer’s philosophy is beginning to take shape now, with the United players looking increasingly comfortable on the ball, and Paul Pogba, in particular, having been transformed from his earlier malaise.

Lineups

Eric Bailly came into the side for his first appearance under Solskjaer, partnering Victor Lindelof, while Anthony Martial returned from illness to take Juan Mata’s place. The rest of the side was as expected, with Ashley Young captaining the team from right-back and Ander Herrera restored to midfield.
Eddie Howe is in the midst of an injury crisis at Bournemouth, with his matchday squad for this game representing the only fit senior players at his disposal. Injuries forced him to play Charlie Daniels in a back three, with Jordon Ibe pressed into service as an emergency right wing-back. Junior Stanislas and David Brooks played out of position in central midfield, as Jefferson Lerma was only one booking away from a two-match suspension.

Rashford’s mobility stretches Bournemouth

Romelu Lukaku’s absence on compassionate grounds afforded Marcus Rashford the chance to hit the ground running under new management, and the Englishman has, quite literally, taken that chance. Rashford offers greater movement and work-rate off the ball than Lukaku, and he has combined wonderfully with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial in these three games. This flexibility was abundant at Old Trafford, with United’s front three exchanging positions at will to confuse Bournemouth’s defence. A look at Rashford’s touch map from the game will illustrate this point –

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Rashford consistently moved towards the right-hand side of the pitch

Rashford’s ability to stretch defences was nowhere more evident than for Manchester United’s first goal. Look at the image below to see the run he makes, dragging Nathan Ake out to the touchline before dribbling past him and Diego Rico.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Rashford drags Ake out to the right touchline here, as Ashley Young plays the pass down the right flank. Note how deep Ake is already to deal with Rashford’s pace

Rashford’s movement caused Bournemouth problems throughout the game. As his touch map shows, he often moved into the right-hand channel, in that tricky half-space where Bournemouth were undecided as to who should pick him up – the left wing-back, the left-sided centre-back or one of the central midfielders. One passage of play in the first half neatly summarised the threat he carried.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Rashford comes short here to receive David de Gea’s pass, before laying it off to Pogba. His movement has dragged Ake out towards him, potentially creating space for a run in behind…
Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
…which he exploits. He’s managed to get behind the Bournemouth defence, but incredibly, is not offside, as Steve Cook (not in picture) is deep and playing him onside…
Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
…Cook comes charging up the pitch to play him offside, but by now, Rashford has space in behind to run onto Young’s pass, with all three of Bournemouth’s centre-backs out of position due to his movement

The Englishman consistently looked to get in behind, causing the Bournemouth defence to drop deeper and thereby creating more space in midfield for the likes of Lingard and Pogba.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Rashford kept running in behind, which inevitably caused Bournemouth to play deeper and thus made room for United’s midfielders

Rashford looks rejuvenated under Solskjaer, and this performance illustrated his confidence levels. While he may have been replaced by Lukaku in the second half, the Belgian will find it extremely difficult to dislodge him from the starting XI in the near future.

Pogba and Lingard once again run the show

Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard have started all three of Solskjaer’s matches in charge so far, and are the two players who have arguably benefited the most from the Norwegian’s tactical instructions. Both players have had the license to get forward and create, with Rashford’s pace stretching opposition backlines and providing space in midfield. Lingard has always been intelligent off the ball, knowing where and when to make runs and position himself, and this has proved invaluable under Solskjaer. His touch map from the Bournemouth game will demonstrate this.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Lingard moved across the width of the pitch, without a fixed position as such

Pogba too has found a new lease of life and put in yet another match-winning display following his efforts against Cardiff and Bournemouth. Here too, he played in his favoured left-sided role, as is evident from his touch map.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
The majority of Pogba’s touches are in the left-hand side of the pitch, concentrated in the left half-space between defence and midfield

Once again, Solskjaer’s set-up in midfield allowed these two players to thrive. Herrera and Matic were the two deep midfield players, taking turns to drop between the centre-backs, which allowed the full-backs to push forward and also gave Pogba and Lingard the freedom to play higher up the pitch.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Matic and Herrera offer protection to the backline, with Lingard and Pogba free to advance

Lingard’s movement and awareness were once again exemplary. Bournemouth’s defence was often caught in no man’s land, as the United man consistently found space between the lines because the Cherries had to contend with Rashford’s pace in behind. A brilliant example of how the two Englishmen worked together can be seen below.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Lingard is coming short to receive Herrera’s pass, with Surman and Stanislas trying to close him down. However, this has also led Ake to move towards him, which allows Rashford to make the run behind him

Pogba simply carried on from where he left off against Huddersfield. Bournemouth’s shape helped him, as he too was able to find pockets of space between their defence and midfield. Nevertheless, the Frenchman took full advantage, registering 114 touches of the ball as he ran the game from his position. Once again, he was extremely attacking in his play, always driving forward on and off the ball. There were numerous occasions when he was United’s most advanced player.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Pogba darts into the box for Matic’s chipped pass

He was also helped by the movement of the players in front of him. Lingard, Rashford and Martial were consistently making runs into the channels, which gave Pogba the chance to show off his passing range. The nature of his role was neatly illustrated for his and United’s second goal; look at the images below to see the run he makes to get onto the end of Herrera’s cross.

Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
Pogba starts off level with Herrera…
Manchester United Bournemouth Premier League Tactical Analysis Statistics
…but is in the box to score from the Spaniard’s cross six seconds later

He also notched an assist for Lukaku to go with his brace and looks completely at home in this system and philosophy. Solskjaer’s biggest task upon arrival was to get the Frenchman onside, and on this evidence, Pogba is enjoying his football and thriving with the responsibility placed on his shoulders.

Conclusion

More of the same from Manchester United – get the full-backs forward, stretch the opposition using pace and width, and allow Pogba and Lingard to play their natural game. These can broadly be summarised as the three biggest changes that Solskjaer has made to United, and the results are there for all to see. United remain defensively shaky, failing to keep a clean sheet in all three games despite their superiority, and this would the next item on the Norwegian’s to-do list. Nevertheless, it has been a strong start to life for him at Old Trafford, and with Reading in the FA Cup and Newcastle in the league up next, he has the chance to build up a significant head of steam before his first true test – Tottenham away at Wembley.


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