If Manchester United fans were to understand David Moyes’ tactics a bit better then, perhaps, just perhaps, the supporters may start enjoying this season a little more.
Of course, understanding his tactics is no substitute for a loss or indeed seventh position in the Premier League. However, what it may do is create a sense of understanding with Moyes’ desired aims, create a sense of excitement when United are in positions on the pitch that Moyes identifies as danger zones and most importantly, dissolve the sense of despair when United don’t play how each individual fan would like them to play.
This article is not intended to suggest that Moyes’ particular tactics are good or, for that matter, bad. It is simply intended to create a better understanding about where he could be taking United in the hope that some fans can find it easier to get on board with the Scot’s ambitions.
Moyes loves to create overloading situations in wide areas of the pitch. 2v1s, 3v2s and even 4v3s on the flanks are Moyes’ preferred way of his team getting into an attacking position and so they can create a goalscoring opportunity. This may explain why he was pleased his team reached the byline so many times in the recent loss to Stoke. By overloading on each particular flank, Moyes’ players find a way into an advanced zone.
United need the right players to achieve this and are slightly short in that sense at the moment. Aside from the occasional (or not so occasional in Antonio Valencia‘s case) disappointing final ball from the wingers, they also need energetic full-backs who can be strong defensively and attack with menace at the right times. Patrice Evra, whilst excellent at surging forward, struggles to combine the two facets to his game well at the moment and Moyes could well justify shelling out a hefty amount on a new left-back given this is his preferred footballing philosophy. He also needs good reserve full-backs baring in mind the importance they play in his tactical set-up.
Another area of the field that needs to respond well to this footballing philosophy are the strikers. They need to move into the right areas to give the wide players opportunities to find them when they overload the flanks. This was probably the reason United struggled to score more goals against Chelsea in January – attacking players not being in the right positions to score goals after good work out wide. Danny Welbeck, despite his recent good goalscoring form, often looks slightly off the pace when it comes to reacting instantly to penalty area chances and this certainly appeared to be the case against Chelsea.
A further important point is getting players, other than just the strikers, into good positions once the wide overload has worked well. United’s first goal against Cardiff earlier this season was a good example of this – after a left-sided overload, Ashley Young crossed into the box where there were already four United players. As well as increasing the odds that Young’s cross would find a player, the numbers in the box also meant another player (Van Persie) was on hand to score after the initial rebound.
So not only are wide overloads part of Moyes’ philosophy but the positions of the strikers and other players in converting those overloads into good goalscoring chances is also important. The second goal against Cardiff, whilst a good strike from Young, highlighted the issues United face sometimes as only Van Persie had got himself into the box after a wide overload.
Another facet of play Moyes tends to employ is a mixture of pressing in the attacking to defending transition. He will often instruct his front four players to press high whilst his back six regain their positions. This explains why United’s front players are often seen sprinting to close down the ball, only to be bypassed with no immediate back-up. This is a sign of the importance Moyes places on regaining shape, something Evra in particular needs to be quicker in doing.
From this brief assessment of Moyes’ tactics, it is obvious Scot likes to attack by creating wide overloads and likes to transition to defending by regaining shape as quickly as possible whilst his forward players initially press the opposition to slow their transition to attack. This all requires a hard-working team, with good knowledge of their roles and responsibilities and particularly good and clever positioning when attacking.
Who knows whether Moyes will adapt his approach in the future but this current style is consistent with this season so far and in the past at Everton. As a fan, understanding this rather than being frustrated at a perceived misuse of a player or naivety in tactics may help to see a better future under Moyes.
Perhaps once the players adapt fully to this philosophy, including the players Moyes might bring in to fit into the style, the club will go on an upward spiral. Or perhaps it won’t.
Originally published at ithinkunited.