Solving Manchester United’s defensive concerns

It's no secret. Manchester United are struggling defensively right now, despite having very capable players all over the pitch. In David De Gea, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In Lindelof and Maguire, the Red Devils have a defensive pairing that spearheaded one of the league's sturdiest defensive structures last season, and led a Europa League charge. Ahead of them, they have two defensive warriors in Fred and McTominay, who will never be world beaters, but are very competent in what they offer. Despite that, Ralf Rangnick's team have conceded 10 goals in their last 5 games, floundering under the German's style of play. So what's amiss?

Assessing Manchester United’s future centre-back options

For the past few seasons, the attention on Manchester United's transfer business has surrounded their inability to sign a world class defensive midfielder. However, with United floundering under Ralf Rangnick's style of play, greater defensive concerns have been illuminated in the past few months.

The real problem with Harry Maguire’s defending

Let's face it. You're tired of hearing about Harry Maguire. So are we! So with that, we debunk the Harry Maguire myth, and pose an alternative perspective as to why he's having a "difficult season" for Manchester United.

Manchester City 1-0 Atletico Madrid: Debunking the 5-5-0

Knowing Pep Guardiola's level of footballing intelligence, we thoroughly trust his judgement. However, within the commentary surrounding what Atletico did on the day to achieve a result, as an undoubtedly all-out defensive approach, the 5-5-0 has become overstated - almost as a metric for evaluating Atletico's solidity. In actuality, the 5-5-0 rarely ever took centre stage.

Tactical Thinker: How would you solve Manchester United’s defensive concerns?

Things have been bumpy since Ralf Rangnick took over, with many players continuing to flounder under the new tactical ideals. The team's defensive problems have garnered particular attention in the media, with the likes of Maguire, Varane, Shaw and Wan-Bissaka continuously lambasted for their performances. So with that, this week we ask the following question in our third Tactical Thinker. How would you solve United's defensive concerns?

How Canada used the 4-4-2 to success in World Cup Qualifying

After thirteen long, hard-fought games, Canada's Men's National Team has officially qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. With 8 wins, 4 draws and just 1 loss in the final stage of qualifying, John Herdman's men sealed their spot with a game to spare, after thumping Jamaica by a smashing score-line of 4-0. In the final stages of the competition, Canada smartly stuck by a 4-4-2 formation, maintaining consistency and chemistry en route to an impressive run to the finish line. Here is our analysis of how Canada used the 4-4-2 to success, and stood strong to stand on guard for thee.

Tactical Thinker: How to stop the long-ball specialist…

In all the discussion about tiki taka, possession-based, beautiful football, long passes often get a bad reputation. However, long passes can be extremely effective, and the best teams in the world know how to intermix both short and long passes into their build-up, in order to effectively break down the opposition. The likes of Ederson at Man City, Joshua Kimmich at Bayern Munich and Mats Hummels at Borussia Dortmund frequently utilize long passes to unlock the opposition's defense, giving their team a different edge from all the possession-based football. While these players may not be your traditional 'number 10' playmakers, they play a vital role in creating chances for their team and kickstarting attacks. So with that, today we ask the next question in our Tactical Thinker series. How do you stop the long-ball specialist?

Why Dortmund are so bad in defensive transitions

Any time Borussia Dortmund look like they might be in with a shot of challenging Bayern for the Bundesliga title, they go and mess it up with an abysmal performance. Marco Rose's time in charge of the Black & Yellows has been characterized by a series of questionable tactical decisions (to say the least), and an utter lack of desire to fix the team's most pressing defensive concern - their disastrously poor positioning, speed and aptitude in transitions. After the club's shocking 5-2 loss to third place Bayer Leverkusen, we take an in-depth look at why Rose's Dortmund are so poor in defensive transitions, and what they can do to fix this.

Wolves 0-0 Chelsea – Tactical Analysis – Bruno Lage’s Defensive Masterclass

A little over a year ago, Thomas Tuchel made his managerial debut for Chelsea, dominating 80% of the possession in a stale 0-0 draw. Sunday's encounter between the two teams saw many parallels, especially in Wolves' defensive appetite and Chelsea's failure to convert. However, it was a vastly different affair, with Wolves putting on a defensive masterclass, completely stunting Chelsea's progress and limiting them to just 1 shot on target. So with that, here is our tactical analysis of how Bruno Lage's team stopped Chelsea in their tracks, and secured another important 0-0 draw.

England – Euro 2020 – Tactical Analysis

Having progressed to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, many picked England as favourites to steal the crown at this summer's Euros. Now heading into the Quarter Finals of the tournament, Gareth Southgate's team remain unbeaten, without having conceded a single goal. Here is our tactical analysis of England at the Euros so far, and their chances of winning it all.

Train of Thought – Why you should be more defensive about rondos

The mental side of the beautiful game is at least as important as the physical side, but is often neglected by coaches in training sessions. In this series, Travis Norsen, author of Play With Your Brain, will discuss small tweaks to standard training exercises and the large positive effects they can have on players’ decision-making and soccer intelligence. This week, Travis explores why you should be more defensive about your rondos.

How to Defend like a Pro

Over the past decade, the emphasis on attacking play in the beautiful game has grown and grown. Coaches and fans are increasingly more excited about the attacking moments of the game, rather than defensive moments. Defending has become an afterthought, and teams that set up to defend are often deemed "boring" and "dinosaurs" by fans around the world. But defending remains an integral component to the modern game, and often it can be seen that teams with the better defense structures (Atletico, Manchester City, etc.) often win more football matches.

Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United – Tactical Analysis

Despite Manchester City's incredible form in recent weeks, the feeling going into the weekend's Manchester derby was that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could get a result yet again, as he had done in four out of his five previous meetings against Guardiola's team. Led by their robust defensive structure and impeccable counter attacking play, that's exactly what happened. Manchester United played with heart and fervidity and eventually succumbed Manchester City to their first loss since November 2020. Here is a tactical analysis of Manchester United's 2-0 win over Manchester City in the derby on March 7th, 2021.