Home » Mastering the third man run: Manchester United vs Liverpool Tactical Analysis

Mastering the third man run: Manchester United vs Liverpool Tactical Analysis

by David O'Neill

Manchester United will more than likely line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape against a Liverpool 4-3-3 – two formations that essentially mirror each other.

This will give each man a direct opponent on the field, which will be a fine test of how well the players take to manager Erik ten Hag’s methods on space creation all over the field.

With Liverpool a dogged side out of possession, rotational movement would be a huge weapon in disrupting their pressing game.

It is perhaps too early to expect the Red Devils to have mastered such an art, however Ten Hag’s early focus on certain aspects of the game may provide insight into how United can give themselves the best possible chance in matches such as these.

In the very first video to emerge from Carrington since Erik ten Hag took the reins, the new boss can be heard emphasising the importance of looking for the third man run.

Judging from his time at Ajax, we can expect this to be a common theme of United’s attack going forward.

What it looks to accomplish is the creation of overloads that afford space to progress the ball into dangerous areas, with players often moving along a defender’s blindside to cause havoc.

This can then create dangerous overloads from which to hurt opposing defences.

When faced with direct markers all over the pitch, third man runs are also a useful way of progressing the ball up the pitch, provided the players have the correct technical skills and tactical awareness.

We can expect United’s midfield in particular to make use of them as they attempt to escape the Liverpool press, and with Fred and Donny van de Beek likely to start behind Bruno Fernandes, the onus will be on them to combine well in order to create attacking opportunities.

Fred will likely be tasked with the deep role and in his case, it will be crucial that he has the necessary composure to know when a run is on or when he has time to pick a pass.

In the final third, we’ll be looking out for fast combination play from Van de Beek, Jadon Sancho and the right full back as they look to create chances.

Quick one-twos and clever underlaps would be a welcome sight for United fans and if these three in particular can deliver, it will mean space for those on the opposite flank to exploit behind Liverpool’s famed high line.

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