Manchester United were not in Champions League action this week. After the shocking defeat to Sevilla last month, the Devils have been freed of the European matches until the next season, but there was something to be learned anyway. Manchester City visited Anfield in the first leg of the quarterfinals against Liverpool. Ahead of the Manchester Derby this weekend, Jose Mourinho and his staff certainly watched the match.
Manchester City lost heavily, as Liverpool scored three times inside of the opening half hour and that was the end of it. The Cityzens failed to even make a shot on target, let alone score a goal. It was unusual to see something like that and here are some things Manchester United should pay attention to.
Manchester United Need To Press High In Central Areas
This was something that many pundits talked about after Liverpool’s 4-3 win over City in January, but this time this was obvious once again. With very mobile players, Liverpool pressed heavily in the first half, getting Man City out of their usual rhythm. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were everywhere and they also had the help of Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner.
Manchester United should try something similar. Jesse Lingard can certainly do a similar role, especially if he would be helped by Ander Herrera. Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford or Alexis Sanchez would all be able to do the same from the flanks getting more towards the central areas when out of possession, but it is hard seeing Paul Pogba in that role.
Liverpool were, of course, helped by a great atmosphere which United will lack playing at Etihad, but the point will be in making this match as chaotic as possible. It worked twice for Liverpool and United could do something similar for certain parts of the match. Sitting deep would give City time to settle and do their usual thing, which is not something that is wanted against such good team.
Gabriel Jesus Struggled
Another point for the high press – at least at some points in the match – would be Gabriel Jesus’ display on Wednesday night. The Brazilian had a very poor match, failing to do anything worthy of reporting. His link-up play was non-existent, failing to lay-off balls for David Silva or any other incoming teammate.
He was often cut-off from the rest of the team, them unable to feed him the balls, and him unable to assert himself into the match. Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk both had a really good game, but were never really troubled by the youngster.
Aymerick Laporte Did Not Enjoy Playing Left-Back
This was another odd decision from Pep Guardiola. Aymerick Laporte started at left-back before Danilo and Fabian Delph. Maybe the thinking was that another ball-playing centre-back would offer more stability in possession for City, but that did not happen. In fact, Laporte was troubled by a mercurial Mohamed Salah and Man United should look towards exploiting the same weakness.
Of course, Laporte would have to start at left-back once again for that to happen, but if that would be the case, an inside-forward on the right flank could trouble him, while also creating the space for Antonio Valencia to push occasionally as well.