Manchester United hosted an open training session yesterday and ahead of today’s game against Liverpool and there was plenty to learn.
After “possibly the world’s largest rondo” players were set into yet more rondo games, which according to The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell invoked fierce instruction from Erik ten Hag.
World’s biggest rondo.
— Laurie Whitwell (@lauriewhitwell) July 11, 2022
Walking between the two groups – one overseen by Steve McClaren, the other Mitchell van der Gaag – the new boss took issue with the attacking side’s formation:
“Bring an extra player – two in the middle. You can make triangles, that’s football. Always the same principle.”
Laurie Whitwell notes that he “shouted” said instruction and made it clear that the Dutchman’s level of involvement in these drills goes well above that of Ralf Rangnick or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s before him.
The focus on creating triangles is a simple one, but it’s a focus that should aid United in their attempts to keep possession in structured and threatening ways.
As James Ducker of Telegraph observes, previous United sides suffered from “poor, rushed decision-making in the final third.”
An eight versus five drill saw him note an occasion on which “the ball was worked side to side four times before an eventual cross,” with Ten Hag urging his players to “pick the right moment.”
While Ducker was critical of the “slow and encumbered” nature of some of the play, over time it will be encouraging to see the Red Devils play with the patience and precision that they have previously lacked.
What that may mean for today’s game is organization quite beside what United fans have been used to, even if the pace and sharpness is not yet there.
Interestingly, the aforementioned drill (featuring an eight-man attack against a five-man defence) had, in its attacking unit, the players we might expect to feature tomorrow – Fred the deepest, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrell Malacia wide of him; Donny van de Beek ahead with Bruno Fernandes and a front three of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial.
The People’s Person’s predicted line-up for the match mirrors this and it will be an intriguing setup to see in action at the Rajamangala against Liverpool.
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