Playing against low-block teams

#07

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How has this truism survived so long?

United do not struggle against teams that sit back. Since Bruno has been a United player he's lost three times in the league. His signing alone has revolutionised how we treat defensive teams. By and large, barring our dodgy start this season, since February we've brushed aside pretty much everyone who plays against us with the sole intention of defending.

What we are terrible at is resisting a high press. When we play out from the back its panic stations. As soon as one or two players get in the face of any member of our back four you fear they're about to lose possession. Starting with the Southampton home game in lockdown, the games we've really struggled in are games where teams have been brave and decided to commit to getting up against our defenders.

In the time since Bruno signed I can remember only a few games when we've struggled with a low block: Mostly when we've heavily rotated or at the start of this season when we've still been finding our fitness.

If teams sit back and let Bruno Fernandes float about without any pressure on the edge of the D we'll score eventually. Either he'll score himself or he'll make a chance.

What really hurts us is when teams stop the ball from getting to Bruno by stopping us from playing out. Whenever I see us going short at goal kicks I panic. You just know the opposition striker and wingers are just waiting to double up on our defenders. Especially Wan-Bissaka. The ball going to him is just a pressing trigger.
 

OleTheGreat

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The problem lies with everyone on the pitch. Nobody in this team can actually cross the ball into the box. I will never agree if they blame Martial for not getting into the box as often as he should because in the last 4-5 season, we've had Zlatan, Lukaku up front and we still struggled to get balls into the middle. We need the wide forwards, midfielders and the wingbacks to cross the ball into the box more often. What's even worse, we are not good with aerial passes throughout the pitch. More often than not it has been wayward. Exceptions of of course Pogba and Bruno. We need to work on these tactics because Man United players are good at everything including playing along the ground like the present City team. We can become a better team than the whole lot if we added a new CB and a defensive midfielder. One who can receive the ball from our center backs and dictate play. We need someone like Casemiro, Camavinga, Fabinho or Busquets.
 

Borys

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DDG
AWB-McTominay-Maguire-Shaw-Telles
van de Beek----Fred
Bruno
Rashford Cavani​

We need somebody to keep width on both sides. Rashford and Martial are better going through the middle, they are no wingers.
We will be putting crosses in with two strikers attacking the ball.
Attacking through the middle will be fun with Bruno and van de Beek.
McTominay in defense because we need to deal with long balls better.
Not much will go through Fred, McTominay, Shaw and Maguire.
A lot of threat on the corners with Cavani, Maguire, and McTominay.

I'd play Greenwood ahead of Cavani because he seems the only effective striker, but not sure what's going on with him. Martial to rotate with Rashford.
 

christinaa

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He played under him for long enough and had players like Giggs,Scholes,Ronaldo,Carrick. We don’t have anything close to that quality except Bruno
Possibly if SAF can give him better players in that meeting. At home United desperately need a right back that can attack and right winger
I agree with both of you.

The ONLY way to beat such teams is to have good wingers and full backs who can take on the rival players and get to the opposition goal line and cross the ball.

Sadly we don't have them presently.
 

Gabagoo

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Until we get someone that can actually dribble past opponent(s), we will struggle against low block teams.

Technically we could pass through them but let's be honest, Solksjaer struggles to get us passing against non-low-block teams, so I don't think turning into Barcelona is going to happen anytime soon, nor should it.

If we were to sign two tricky wingers that committed opponents consistently - not one of our players does this - then we would start finding ways through pretty quickly.
 

Adam-Utd

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How has this truism survived so long?

United do not struggle against teams that sit back.
Well that's not completely true either. There's plenty of examples where we've struggled this way too. Just recently against Istanbul we couldn't break them down even with Bruno on the pitch.

While I agree that being pressed also is a big issue for us, we don't break down low block teams with ease at all.
 

#07

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Well that's not completely true either. There's plenty of examples where we've struggled this way too. Just recently against Istanbul we couldn't break them down even with Bruno on the pitch.

While I agree that being pressed also is a big issue for us, we don't break down low block teams with ease at all.
That's one game in a sample size of like 30, one in which the team is still finding its form early season and clearly had one eye on Goodison Park. Its true that when Bruno has off days our attack doesn't work very well. However, he has far more on days than off days. His 31 goal contributions in 33 games show that.

The biggest threat to us is opposition players stopping the supply to Bruno and keep us penned in. If we can't get the ball to Bruno we're a little bit toothless, unless we can hit the raking ball over the top to Rashford or Martial.
 

Adam-Utd

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That's one game in a sample size of like 30, one in which the team is still finding its form early season and clearly had one eye on Goodison Park. Its true that when Bruno has off days our attack doesn't work very well. However, he has far more on days than off days. His 31 goal contributions in 33 games show that.

The biggest threat to us is opposition players stopping the supply to Bruno and keep us penned in. If we can't get the ball to Bruno we're a little bit toothless, unless we can hit the raking ball over the top to Rashford or Martial.
Without going through the list we struggled with Palace, Arsenal and Chelsea too. Every team knows now they can press you immediately, and if that fails then sit back and camp on the edge of their own box and we will try to play through it. Easy.

Greenwood did make a difference being more of a threat from wide areas but since he's been out of the team we haven't looked anywhere near as comfortable.
 

Highfather_24

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What we are terrible at is resisting a high press. When we play out from the back its panic stations. As soon as one or two players get in the face of any member of our back four you fear they're about to lose possession. Starting with the Southampton home game in lockdown, the games we've really struggled in are games where teams have been brave and decided to commit to getting up against our defenders.
Leipzig pressed high against us. We dealt with it very well, no issues. On the other hand, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Istanbul etc were compact and defended deep, and we struggled to score from open play.

I personally think we struggle with both, but are improving at playing against press, by playing long balls. I think we need some creativity from wide areas, because all our creativity comes from Bruno atm(specially if we are playing with a Fred-McT pivot).
 

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How about just using more attacking players like Chelsea have recently, when they've opened up Burnley and Leeds?

De Gea
Wan B - Lindelöf - Maguire - Telles
VdB/Mata - Fred - Bruno
Greenwood - Martial - Rashford

That should be enough in theory with also Pogba and Cavani coming on later in games, to have fresh legs and apply further pressure.
Let Telles bomb forward and Wan B stay a bit back, as Maguire and Lindelöf always get caught out on the counter.
Play dirty and stop counter-attacks too with free-kicks like City do.
 

romufc

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How about just using more attacking players like Chelsea have recently, when they've opened up Burnley and Leeds?
Not sure when Chelsea played Leeds and opened them up. Leeds are not a low block either.

Chelsea against SU in their last home game started with Kante and Kovacic who are similar to McT and Fred but obviously more quality.

Not sure how that is more attacking players.
 

ROFLUTION

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Not sure when Chelsea played Leeds and opened them up. Leeds are not a low block either.

Chelsea against SU in their last home game started with Kante and Kovacic who are similar to McT and Fred but obviously more quality.

Not sure how that is more attacking players.
Leeds can play defensive too and has been good at it before. Chelsea also have Reece James where we have Wan B to compensate for the Kante Kovacic combo (which actually saw Kovacic bomb forward in the pockets a couple of times - that could be VdB)
 

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Until we get someone that can actually dribble past opponent(s), we will struggle against low block teams.

Technically we could pass through them but let's be honest, Solksjaer struggles to get us passing against non-low-block teams, so I don't think turning into Barcelona is going to happen anytime soon, nor should it.

If we were to sign two tricky wingers that committed opponents consistently - not one of our players does this - then we would start finding ways through pretty quickly.
I guess you don't watch them much.

I watched them quite regularly under Pep. Truth is whenever Messi didn't play they looked pretty much like us under LVG. Lot of passes but toothless.
 

Gabagoo

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I guess you don't watch them much.

I watched them quite regularly under Pep. Truth is whenever Messi didn't play they looked pretty much like us under LVG. Lot of passes but toothless.
That's not really true - and I've never been a fan of Barca.

They still dominated teams, smothering the opponent and taking far many more attempts at goal. The only difference without Messi was that they lacked the killer edge that, say, the world's best player could provide.

Barcelona without Messi still played dominant football. We don't do that with all of our best players available. Solksjaer's strength is the man-management side, so he should get us to play a simple counter-attack-based game with dangerous attackers ready to commit defenders, and currently we don't have those players.
 

Lee565

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Maybe we would have more success if we had the world class diminutive, low balance players with good movement, like a sterling, aguero, silva, salah, hazard etc..tough it doesnt seem to effect Bayern too much who don't have have these type of players so much either..
 

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That's not really true - and I've never been a fan of Barca.

They still dominated teams, smothering the opponent and taking far many more attempts at goal. The only difference without Messi was that they lacked the killer edge that, say, the world's best player could provide.

Barcelona without Messi still played dominant football. We don't do that with all of our best players available. Solksjaer's strength is the man-management side, so he should get us to play a simple counter-attack-based game with dangerous attackers ready to commit defenders, and currently we don't have those players.
May I ask did you regularly watch them under Pep? And their matches without Messi?

Sure thing Barca without Messi still dominated. With that midfield Busquet - Xavi - Inesta you'd dominate anyone. But they didn't create much and played some very boring football. Which I saw again with us under LVG.

P/s: of course I didn't mean us under LVG could play like them. But I'd say the same about the boring part. Just lot lot of passes around the penalty area. That's all I can remember.
 
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Borys

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I agree with both of you.

The ONLY way to beat such teams is to have good wingers and full backs who can take on the rival players and get to the opposition goal line and cross the ball.

Sadly we don't have them presently.
Until we get someone that can actually dribble past opponent(s), we will struggle against low block teams.

Technically we could pass through them but let's be honest, Solksjaer struggles to get us passing against non-low-block teams, so I don't think turning into Barcelona is going to happen anytime soon, nor should it.

If we were to sign two tricky wingers that committed opponents consistently - not one of our players does this - then we would start finding ways through pretty quickly.
That's not the case, you don't need exceptional wide players to put in a cross. Take a look at Brighton game, they worked the ball so well, constantly creating 1vs1 in wide areas.
The system is more important, creating triangles with fullbacks, midfielders and strikers going wide. We can do it with current squad, just need to be braver (which seems to be happening already).
If you pass the ball slowly around the box, there will be 2-3 players marking player on the ball so unless it's Messi, he won't do much in such situation.

Playing this way we will be risking counter attacks, so need to be prepared to track back and win aerial duels. Basically can't do that with Mata, Pogba, and Matic.
 

Hoboman

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Probably the easiest option is to increase intensity - make even simple passes faster, constantly attack space and press immediately after losing a ball.
 

georgipep

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Leeds can play defensive too and has been good at it before. Chelsea also have Reece James where we have Wan B to compensate for the Kante Kovacic combo (which actually saw Kovacic bomb forward in the pockets a couple of times - that could be VdB)
Similar to how Fred has been in shooting positions in front of the opposition penalty area and McT has been shooting and entering the penalty area in recent games?

As for AWB and James, not sure how that balances having two defensive-minded midfielders. He (Aaron) often sits quite high to provide width and when he does and gets exposed in the counter people on here slaughter him.

I don't think we have any problems with low block teams when we approach games with the right attitude. Otherwise it won't matter how attacking a starting XI we field, it will end being another Basaksehir fiasco.
 

Borys

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Similar to how Fred has been in shooting positions in front of the opposition penalty area and McT has been shooting and entering the penalty area in recent games?

As for AWB and James, not sure how that balances having two defensive-minded midfielders. He (Aaron) often sits quite high to provide width and when he does and gets exposed in the counter people on here slaughter him.

I don't think we have any problems with low block teams when we approach games with the right attitude. Otherwise it won't matter how attacking a starting XI we field, it will end being another Basaksehir fiasco.
I've noticed that too. From what I've observed it happens because whoever plays on the right wing (Mata, Greenwood, Rashford) has a tendency to come inside, what leaves AWB on his own, and he is moving extremely high with no cover. You can see it on the heatmaps and graphs showing players movement.

This is also why I suggested to going 3 at the back with McTominay, Maguira and Shaw against low block teams.
 

christinaa

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That's not the case, you don't need exceptional wide players to put in a cross. Take a look at Brighton game, they worked the ball so well, constantly creating 1vs1 in wide areas.
The system is more important, creating triangles with fullbacks, midfielders and strikers going wide. We can do it with current squad, just need to be braver (which seems to be happening already).
If you pass the ball slowly around the box, there will be 2-3 players marking player on the ball so unless it's Messi, he won't do much in such situation.

Playing this way we will be risking counter attacks, so need to be prepared to track back and win aerial duels. Basically can't do that with Mata, Pogba, and Matic.
What i said and many others too is exactly the case.
 

Dan_F

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How about just using more attacking players like Chelsea have recently, when they've opened up Burnley and Leeds?

De Gea
Wan B - Lindelöf - Maguire - Telles
VdB/Mata - Fred - Bruno
Greenwood - Martial - Rashford

That should be enough in theory with also Pogba and Cavani coming on later in games, to have fresh legs and apply further pressure.
Let Telles bomb forward and Wan B stay a bit back, as Maguire and Lindelöf always get caught out on the counter.
Play dirty and stop counter-attacks too with free-kicks like City do.
Didn’t we do that against Istanbul?

Like someone else pointed out, intensity is definitely a problem. Everyone takes far too many touches, bar maybe VDB, who is clearly used to playing 1-2 touch with Ajax.

Fred, McTominay, AWB, all take two touches to get the ball under control, before even thinking about passing. Shaw likes to stand still with the ball trapped under his left foot looking for a pass, although this is also symptom of a lack movement ahead of him.
 

Gabagoo

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That's not the case, you don't need exceptional wide players to put in a cross. Take a look at Brighton game, they worked the ball so well, constantly creating 1vs1 in wide areas.
The system is more important, creating triangles with fullbacks, midfielders and strikers going wide. We can do it with current squad, just need to be braver (which seems to be happening already).
If you pass the ball slowly around the box, there will be 2-3 players marking player on the ball so unless it's Messi, he won't do much in such situation.

Playing this way we will be risking counter attacks, so need to be prepared to track back and win aerial duels. Basically can't do that with Mata, Pogba, and Matic.
So the choices are:
  1. But one or two tricky wingers (which is easily done and could be financed by selling Pogba to Real and James to my local Sunday league team)
  2. OR revamp the team's ethos and change multiple personnel to accommodate the extra required defensive responsibilities
While both would be viable solutions, I'd prefer 1. because it's would be a lot quicker to implement and probably more exciting to watch.
 

Gabagoo

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May I ask did you regularly watch them under Pep? And their matches without Messi?

Sure thing Barca without Messi still dominated. With that midfield Busquet - Xavi - Inesta you'd dominate anyone. But they didn't create much and played some very boring football. Which I saw again with us under LVG.

P/s: of course I didn't mean us under LVG could play like them. But I'd say the same about the boring part. Just lot lot of passes around the penalty area. That's all I can remember.
I watched them a few times.

They dominated, regardless of how exciting they were. Again, I actually hated the way they played, but the point remains that they were always dominant.

We're never dominant in our matches. We play with little idea against low blocks (smaller teams) and very defensive, reactive football against good teams.

It's not a complaint, just the way it is.
 

Borys

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So the choices are:
  1. But one or two tricky wingers (which is easily done and could be financed by selling Pogba to Real and James to my local Sunday league team)
  2. OR revamp the team's ethos and change multiple personnel to accommodate the extra required defensive responsibilities
While both would be viable solutions, I'd prefer 1. because it's would be a lot quicker to implement and probably more exciting to watch.
I think you missed my point.

Even if we get that tricky winger (that's a big IF considering our transfer history), we end up playing him in current system. Which is slow, and unimaginative. He'll be set up to fail.

We need to work the ball better to create 1on1 in wide areas first. Many teams with lack of proper dribblers do it. See La Liga for example.

IMO the reason for our conservative setup is the poor start to the season. 11 goals lost in first 3 games does that to any manager.
 

Borys

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I see a lot of complaints. What does Redcafe consider as "good enough" against low block teams?

Against West Brom, we've had 7 shots on target.
Two excellent chances: Martial early on and Rashford from a few yards. Both created by Bruno.
Three good chances: Martial header, Maguire from the box, Rashford from distance.
Some half chances (Cavani blocked shot and Mata from Bruno backspin pass).

Is that considered not enough? Or the problem is our strikers with lowest conversion rate in the EPL?
 

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What was the point of playing Matic and Fred against a team who had not won a game in the Premiership and can't buy a goal? Any wonder Rashford and Martial looked out of sorts and dispirited for much of the game with that lineup and the only player contributing in the attacking third was Bruno.
 

RaddyRed

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What was the point of playing Matic and Fred against a team who had not won a game in the Premiership and can't buy a goal? Any wonder Rashford and Martial looked out of sorts and dispirited for much of the game with that lineup and the only player contributing in the attacking third was Bruno.
Makes no sense against teams that will sit back. Ole clearly doesnt trust the defence enough not to play two holding players. VDB for Matic last night would have made sense, as WBA had no intention of attacking, and their counter attacking doesn't offer the same threat as other teams in the league.
 

cyberman

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What was the point of playing Matic and Fred against a team who had not won a game in the Premiership and can't buy a goal? Any wonder Rashford and Martial looked out of sorts and dispirited for much of the game with that lineup and the only player contributing in the attacking third was Bruno.
But we did create enough chances to win by 2 or 3 with that midfield. Those 2 got plenty of the ball and having Fred in midfield doesnt mean Rashford and Martial should miss easy chances. Its also on those 2 that it was all Bruno if we are being honest. Thst midfield is there to give our forwards the freedom to attack.
 

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Thst midfield is there to give our forwards the freedom to attack.
That midfield was there to protect the defence than give freedom to the attackers.

Maguire, Lindeloff, and Van Bissaka rather not have the ball. Fred needs to calm down and coached to bring about some composure and culture to his game. Mata with all his finesse is the polar opposite of Fred, calm and composed but just doesn't have the legs to be playing high-intensity games. He'd be better off playing in European and easier cup games. Surely a back 4 costing nearly 200 million can handle West Broms so-called strikers?
 

tomaldinho1

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What was the point of playing Matic and Fred against a team who had not won a game in the Premiership and can't buy a goal? Any wonder Rashford and Martial looked out of sorts and dispirited for much of the game with that lineup and the only player contributing in the attacking third was Bruno.
Exactly this, we are too cautious/defensive. WBA have the worst defense in the league and average under a goal a game. Why did we start Fred & Matic sitting deep? Ole is bringing the pressure onto himself with his approach particularly because he keeps saying he wants us to attack and how we're a pressing team that want to keep scoring goals.

Can anyone point out to me what is different to how we play versus how we played under Mou - same issues with build up, same reliance on counters, only this time we have VAR bailing us out almost every game. We start the same formation, we still create nothing from RW, we scored just as few goals last season even with 200m new signings & concede more than his last full season here. I don't want to see Mou back here ever again but we've just hired someone who plays the same way but has vastly less experience, it makes zero sense.
 

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What was the point of playing Matic and Fred against a team who had not won a game in the Premiership and can't buy a goal? Any wonder Rashford and Martial looked out of sorts and dispirited for much of the game with that lineup and the only player contributing in the attacking third was Bruno.
So the reason Martial and Rashford missed easy chances is because they were dispirited because of our midfield pairing?

Midfield did their job, Bruno did his job. Front three failed. Again.
 

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Why do people call for us to swap out Fred and McTominay against weaker teams? They are our most stable midfield two and we need stability whether we are playing Tranmere or Real Madrid.

The issue for me lies with our attackers. Rashford is very, very hit and miss. Martial isn’t really a CF. Mata shouldnt be starting games in the PL.

I’d like to see Martial - Cavani - Greenwood for a few weeks, see how that does
 

BehemothTerror

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I think its mainly lack of width. Our attackers all like to cut inside and Rashford in particular isnt as good when he has to come too deep combined with that. Our fullbacks are also not great in bombing up to get into wide positions to support too though I do wonder if this is due to a lack of speed at CB which is even worse when Matic plays. Fernandezs goal against Brighton last season was what we should be doing more often. Quick transition, one forward stretching the width then providing a better chance of a killer pass into the box.
 

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The biggest problem is not creativity in breaking low blocks. Bruno already solved that, majority of games, we don't have this problem until the few rare games when we do where opposing team mark him out of the game, rare but does happen.

1. It's "Clinical finishing.exe missing".
When your finishers are Martial and Rashford, you have problems. They are serial inconsistent finishers, despite what the stats like to say or how people claim Martial is actually clinical. High goals doesn't mean the players are reliable finishers. The duo is balanced by having Greenwood, a natural deadly finisher.

Basically this season we're missing motivated Greenwood.

2. Additionally we just don't have composure when we're trying to break low blocks.
None of our players are capable of orchestrating this good composed attacks. We have similar problems actually during SAF later seasons, but it's okay when we had Scholes who can dictate tempo and orchestrated attacks around and in the box (it's a problem when he retired, but Carrick sort of pick that mantle at a lower level). When Scholes is absent, we still have good composed players to do the trick eg. Carrick's attacking build-up, CR7 poaching and shooting skills, as does Rooney bulldozing through, Vidic and Evra threats in set-pieces, and RVP's deadly finishing later one, with of course Giggsy trickery plays meant we don't have any major problems swatting low blocks down. The composure is nice and very clear, but more importantly stable and consistent with many options capable and up to the task.

Last time we had many more composed players is Lukaku's first season (composed finisher), and when we had Herrera, Carrick and Zlatan (although his finishing is erratic at times). All three are very good in dictating attacks in and around the box. I guess I'll add in Blind. You need good composure to break low blocks. Teams trained well in coaching specifically attacking have good composure because they know what to do and are expecting/anticipating their teammates to move, do and position themselves so it's rehearsed and ready.

Ours in contrast rely too much on individuals so... we basically need more natural players that can provide this composure facing low blocks. It's just Greenwood really who provided that composed finishing, and he's not playing and not really in his normal good form. Bruno too is composed when breaking defenses but not when finishing and he's not capable of "controlling" the tempo i.e. orchestrating composed attacks high up the pitch as Scholes can so the whole team is not really composed each time we attack. :( It's sad and embarrassing seeing a United "top team" not capable of doing this. I get it's a high level skill not measured by stats, but then that's what you need when you decided to pour everything onto total individual-reliance system. Reap what you sow.

On a plus note, Telles showed signs of good composure. Maguire and McT too in set-pieces. So... up to managers then to use everything available that he can.
 

jamesjimmybyrondean

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Istanbul didn't keep a low block but I reckon we will get better at beating low blocks if we change up the squad a bit. Bring in Cavani as our no. 9 as he is good with movement and scoring those scrappy goals. Take off Rashford and put Martial on the left as Martial is better at tight spaces and dribbling. Bring back Greenwood on the right. Add the creativity of Bruno and VdB in midfield with Telles at left back.

Think all this will make us better at breaking down low blocks. The only problem may be who is the 3rd midfielder paired with Bruno and VdB that is good enough defensively
 

Sylar

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A full back that can cross, a striker with movement like Cavani and midfield of Bruno, vdb and fred would work well against a low block
Being able to score from distance to helps but it opens up possibilities with crossing that telles can provide and somebody willing to get on the end of it like Cavani
 

MikeeMike

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Probably the easiest option is to increase intensity - make even simple passes faster, constantly attack space and press immediately after losing a ball.
True, and when they park the bus there as to be so much more movement off the ball. We are so predictable. Corners are aweful. 30-40 seconds for ref to sort out Maguire pushing / being pushed on “D” the he peels off back post.
How about holding outside box and attacking centre for a whipped in cross.
No variation in our play