In seasons gone by the counter-attack has been Manchester United’s greatest strength, it now appears to be their biggest weakness.
With Solskjaer even proclaiming: “It’s in our genes those counter-attacking goals, and I love seeing them, I have to say.”
But it is now apparent the Red Devils cannot contain the counter-attack themselves, with all of Everton, Aston Villa, Villareal and Wolves amongst others causing United major problems.
The latest offering in The Telegraph’s four-part series, delving into a tactical/technical issue of the four main title contenders offered some explanations as to why this is.
The first point raised was the lack of a midfield specialist capable of sitting in front of the back four and offering adequate protection.
😬 Times dribbled past per 90 of DMs of the Premier League's big-six this season:
Man Utd – Fred (3)
Arsenal – Thomas Partey (2.5)
Spurs – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (1.9)
Liverpool – Fabinho (1.7)
Chelsea – N'Golo Kante (1.1)
Man City – Rodri (0.6)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) October 4, 2021
United’s loose attacking structure also leaves them vulnerable on the break, as too often possession is lost in the attacking third with too many men committed or simply out of position entirely.
With the game involving such fine margins, a ball falling to a McTominay in the box could equally end in a goal for United as a counter opportunity for the opposition, therefore United must improve structurally and find a better balance.
The role of Aaron Wan-Bissaka was noted as crucial as he offers United’s best ‘insurance policy’ against the counter with his pace, positioning and tackling ability.
Teams are now simply shutting down United’s left-hand side and leaving Wan-Bissaka as the spare man, therefore exploiting his lack of ability on the ball.
As a result, he has had the most touches and completed the most passes for the club this term, and it means if he is to give up possession, United’s best recovery defender is then out of the picture.