21/10/2013 09:17 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Manchester United Need a Plan B

In the gameweek eight of the English Premier League, Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Mauricio Pochettino's Southampton side.

The Saints were clearly the better side for the majority of the game. They were more mobile, had more attempts on goal (18, as compared to United's 12) and edged United in the possession stats (54%).

David Moyes' troops were one-dimensional throughout the evening. As much as the Scot likes his team to attack down the wings, he needs to be more creative with the tactics.

On Saturday, only 18% of United's attacks came down the middle of the park. The right wing gave shelter to 42% of the Red Devils' attacks, while the numbers for left flank stood at 40%. Rarely will you see such "wing-biased" stats for a team in a Premier League match.

Moyes tried all sorts of tactics on the wings though.

Overloads were the starters. The full-backs often helped the wingers to create 2-versus-1 situations, while Wayne Rooney continually tried to provide a numerical advantage by moving form flank to flank.


United aimed to get behind either Nathaniel Clyne or Luke Shaw and then play the ball into the box.

Although Southampton were quick to nullify the numerical advantage of the hosts on the wings most of the times, they struggled to contain the movement of the United players. So, the likes of Rooney and Nani were able to get ample space down the wings.

In the 77th minute, United tried to create an overload on the left with Robin van Persie, Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Danny Welbeck. Southampton did well to congest the wing, but Rooney was able to get behind Clyne and van Persie provided him with a wonderful through ball. As the play progressed, the England international crossed the ball into the box but Giggs failed to nick it in.

This was a trademark United attack under Moyes.

If not overloads, Moyes relied on Luis Nani or Adnan Januzaj to bring about a degree of unpredictability with their dribbling finesse. Their impact was limited as either the final product was lacking or United's attackers let them down, the latter in case of Nani.

Finally was the wing-play via the full-backs, Rafael Da Silva and Patrice Evra.

Both were given space to overlap when Januzaj and Nani moved centrally, but their roles slightly differed.

Against Southampton, Moyes wanted United to target their opposition's left wing as Clyne can be susceptible to lapses in concentration.

So the former Everton manager was keen on Januzaj to get into one-one situations against Clyne or for the United players to get behind the latter by creating overloads. Thus, Evra was basically needed to carry the ball forward, help in overloads and provide ammunition to the likes Januzaj and Rooney. Hence, 23 of the Frenchman's 38 passes were played to the duo.

On the other hand, since Southampton congested the left-wing very quickly when United tried the overloads, the Red Devils regularly shifted play to the right-wing.

Rafael received the possession in promising positions but his crossing was atrocious. The Brazilian's link-up with Nani looked enticing but eventually they both had to do the same thing- cross in to the attackers. What United needed to do was play the ball more on the ground and open up Southampton with shorts passes and one-two's- not just from hopeful balls from the wings.


United's passing chart shows all passes were going to the flanks. There was no Plan B.


A little diversity could have helped. If Moyes was so adamant for his men to play from the wings, he could've at-least instructed Nani and Januzaj to test Artur Boric from distance.

Southampton were playing with a very high line and bringing on Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa after the interval could've exploited this tactic of the visitors. But United only tried to get behind the Saints' backline a couple of times in the ninety odd minutes and abandoned this option after van Persie was flagged for offside in quick succession early on in the second-half.

The problem lies in United's central players. Fellaini and Carrick are too static and fail to form the link between van Persie and the midfield. Rooney either plays too high up the pitch or when he drops back, he lacks support.

United looked most dangerous against Southampton when both van Persie and Rooney slightly dropped back to link up with the midfielders. But that didn't and can't happen often as van Persie is supposed to play on the last man's shoulder.

Therefore, the only way United's strikers can be provided ammunition is from out wide. And if the crosses or low ball render futile, United stutter. The Red Devils become one-dimensional.

So, Moyes needs a Plan B.

Kagawa can make United more fluid but it's hard to overlook Rooney's form this term.

A midfield trio of Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Kagawa, along with Nani and Januzaj or Valencia on the wings will make United more composed. At present, mobility and agility is lacking in the United team.

Nonetheless, if Moyes wants to persist with attacking down the wings, he needs new personnel to do so- ones who could cross the ball better. After all, Southampton had a better crossing accuracy (29.6%) than the hosts (17.6%) on Saturday and United were the ones relying on that outlet for goals.

(Note: All the statistics are via and