Monday night football was back and an exciting encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool was what had us football fans glued to our TV screens.
With both teams failing to win their first two games in the league this season, this encounter had a lot of promise and it didn’t disappoint.
Even though both teams were struggling and had failed to win all season, Liverpool were still deemed as favorite to win this encounter.
Before the match kicked off, Man United found themselves in 19th place(2nd from bottom) after they suffered 2-1 and 4-0 defeats to Brighton and Brentford respectively.
With all the odds stacked against them, Man United would need to do something different, they’d need to change their approach and find a way to get a victory against a Liverpool side that were looking to bounce back after their defeat against Crystal Palace.
Well, we all know how the match ended, Man United were victorious, they beat Liverpool 2-1 and shocked the footballing world. This wasn’t a lucky win, rather, it was a well coached win that showed just what Erik Ten Hag is all about.
Erik Ten Hag showed his ability to adapt and make changes to his team and their style of play. In this article, we’d be looking at three tactical changes Erik Ten Hag made to his Man United team against Liverpool.
Three tactical changes Erik Ten Hag made against Liverpool
1. A more direct style of play
It is no secret that Man United had struggled and made a lot of mistakes when they tried to play out from the back in their previous games.
And this is where we notice the first tactical change in Man United’s game against Liverpool. Liverpool we all know are pressing machines and that must have been on the mind of Erik Ten Hag as he prepared his team for the clash against Liverpool.
In this game instead of Man United playing out from the back, they took a more direct approach – they went long. Even though the first and second balls were not won most times, it surely helped in moving the team up the pitch; thereby preventing mounted pressure from the Liverpool high press.
This tactical contrast surely saw a rise in the statistics compared to their previous two matches as David De Gea made 30 long balls as compared to just 7 each in the previous two matches against Brighton and Brentford.
2. A new center back pairing
In football you could have the best attack, but that has to be replicated in the defense as well, and a solid defense was surely posed by United at Old Trafford.
A new center-back pairing might just be brewing for United as the Varane-Martinez partnership was rock solid with both players (especially Lisandro Martinez) playing with so much aggressiveness, passion and heart, something Man United have been lacking for a while now.
In previous articles, we discussed Martinez’s role in United. and what he brings to this United team, and that firmly includes the progressive outlet he poses at Left Center-back (LCB), and his ability to complete progressive passes, which helps in breaking down a tightly packed midfield.
This brilliant defensive display by United, covered across their entire backline, as players like Salah, and Trent, struggled to find their respective feet, especially in the first half, due to the amount of quality and aggression players like Malacia and even Elanga posed on the left channel.
“Aggression” is a word that has barely been used in recent events when Manchester United is mentioned, but surely that performance was aggression personified.
3. A change in shape
The team shape usually varies depending on the opponent, and that is a vital part of the game that most teams have failed to implement strongly, and as such have failed to pick points against this Liverpool team, but that is a significant factor that United new manager Erik Ten Hag got spot on. United set up with a 4-4-2 formation when in possession of the ball, and a 4-4-1-1 formation without the ball, which helped in restricting Liverpool’s fullbacks from overlapping.
Such tactical brilliance only comes into fruition with discipline, which involves both far wingers coming back to help the fullbacks in defense and the United wingers showed a lot of discipline, as Sancho and Elanga did help defensively.
The 4-4-1-1 structure Man United deployed when out of possession helped nullify the threat Liverpool’s full-backs carry. And this was really effective because of the absence of a creative player in the Liverpool’s midfield.
Erik Ten Hag has shown that he’s a manager that has a lot of quality and if he’s able to continue to make these brave tactical changes, then he might just be the man to bring the glory days back to Man United.
The change in mentality, attitude, and the desire to win shown by those Man United players on Monday, gives us an idea of the sort of manager Erik Ten Hag is.
Post Match Managerial Interviews
Klopp when asked about what was missing with the amount of possession they had
Goals; he said and chuckled. The Liverpool manager went ahead to describe the United performance; as he spoke about how aggressive the home side were, with flying challenges and tackles. he said United got the start they wanted. He thereafter said at some point we played the football we wanted to play, but there was no element of luck as United defended with bodies on the line.
The interviewer asked Klopp if the absence of certain players was affecting them
Klopp replied “Doesn’t help, and thereafter went ahead to speak about the general situation of absentees, where he said “Out of nothing Keita fell out: crazy, but we still have completely normal sessions, so yes it’s helpful if you have a variety of choices in terms of players, but this is our situation at the moment, so we have to deal with it.
The interviewer went ahead to ask if any of the absentees are close to being back for the weekend
Klopp: “We will see, I’m hopeful that it is all good news.
Interviewer “Suppose the immediate reaction would be Played 3 and only 2 points on the board, but do you think this team is close to clicking ?”
Klopp replied “We have to show that, it makes no sense for me to say I’m a big supporter of these boys, and as such they always have a chance to click, so it’s not about that. We always say there are many ways to win a football game, but you have to find at least one, and so far we haven’t found that one in three premier league games.
Erik Ten Hag When Asked On His First Win As United Manager, And Manchester United’s First Win Against Liverpool Since 2018.
He said: “Man United stands for winning, and we did not do that in the first two games for certain reasons, but Man United is not for excuses, and as such we have to win, and that standard has to be brought on the pitch every game, because that is the way of life here.” He went ahead to say: “it starts in training, and today we showed that spirit, that when we act as a team, we can achieve a lot.”
Interviewer went ahead to say “This is a big team and big managers have to make big calls. What was your thinking behind leaving Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the team today? and did it pay off?
He replied “We need the squad, and we have so many games to cover, and we looked for the most suitable squad selection for today’s opponent, and that was the best team, and they showed it. He went ahead to compliment the players and said “They are really important for the squad.”
Interviewer “Two of your Newly acquired players Martinez and Malacia had big night. what did you think of both of their performances?”
I think it’s the whole team, and they performed really well. They defended really well and really tough, but they also had composure, and that is an aspect we can definitely improve.” He went ahead to say “when we bring a little bit more composure and extra passing, we can hurt opponents more, and that is what we need to work on, but for tonight I am satisfied with this.
When Asked About The Goals Scored Especially Rashford’s, And What The Goal Will Do For Him.
Of course it is important, and I hope it gives them believe as they are the first defenders, they work really hard for the team in the pressing department, but you can see that they are also effective when we have the ball.” He went ahead to say “From here on BELIEVE, is definitely important for them.
Interviewer “It’s been a very good night, and things just get better, because you have just signed arguably the best defensive midfielder in the world”
He replied “Yes he is when you see the stats, we’re really happy with that. We said before we only wanted to sign the right players, and we’re convinced that with him, we’ve got that(the right player). He went ahead to say “He is so experienced, and has won so many trophies, and he will bring that into the team. We have other champions, and they have to as well bring that to the team, as he said that standard would help to guide the team.”
When Asked If He Is Close To Being Ready To Pla
Erik replied: “I cannot say, but tomorrow is his first day in training, so we will see how far he is, but I’m sure he will be in the team quickly.”
When Asked If The Season Has Just Started For Them
He said “No”, where he right after chuckled, and said “It could always be, but we lost two games. Tonight we’re happy we won, we would recover from this and ensure we’re ready at the weekend, as Southampton is also a big game.