As reported here recently, Manchester United have appointed Eric Ramsay as their new set-piece coach.
According to James Ducker (The Telegraph), the 29 year old has been tasked with rectifying a vulnerability at defending free-kicks and corners.
Only Leeds United conceded more goals from set-pieces than the 14 shipped by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the Premier League last season, and it was an issue the manager was determined to address.
The Red Devils conceded 22 goals from set-pieces across all competitions.
Ramsay was poached from Chelsea, where he spent the past two seasons as an Under-23’s coach.
Last season United’s system for defending corners was a hybrid between man-marking and zonal marking.
On a given corner, United will typically line up with four to five players marking zonally across the six-yard box and another cluster of players near the penalty spot ready to man-mark runners.
While Harry Maguire and the rest of the zonal markers’ job is to win the ball, the man markers’ job is to prevent the opposition players from attacking the six-yard box.
The issue arises when the opponent wins the ball first. In these cases, United tend to concede an extremely high percentage of chances that end up in the back of the net.
Cam Meighan, a set-piece consultant in the Women’s Super League, has posted a thread breaking down each problem with United’s zonal marking system.
The below example highlights United’s poor defensive set-up in the goal conceded against AC Milan in the Europa League.
Man United's corner goal conceded against AC Milan, highlighting the subtle differences starting positions make in zonal setups.
Man United too deep and compact around the near post vs inswinger and man-marking is poor to allow a free run. pic.twitter.com/ZvBOzPfHJW
— Cam Meighan (@cam_meighan) March 11, 2021
Ramsay’s arrival will make United much more competent when defending set-pieces whilst improving their capacity to convert from attacking ones.
Maguire’s goal in the friendly against Everton was a prime example of Ramsay’s influence.
Shaw ➡️ Maguire
Welcome back, lads! ????#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 7, 2021
Everton are a physical side who have caused United problems in the past. In this game, albeit just a friendly, United coped easily.
Ramsay’s fluency in French and Spanish will allow him to communicate with foreign players easily.
Moreover, the arrival of Raphael Varane will boost United’s aerial presence, and in turn, vastly improve their ability on set-pieces.
The club believes they are assembling a talented pool of young coaches, with Kieran McKenna, Eric Ramsay and Justin Cochrane, who can form the crux of United’s success in the coming years.