Premier league title is Manchester United’s to lose now as they are 12 points clear of second-place Manchester City with 12 games to go unless City can pull off yet an another anti-climatic drama like last season. Manchester United ease passed Everton at Old Trafford taking revenge for last year’s fixture when Everton ended their tittle hopes. Lets analyze the game tactically,
Manchester United’s Attack
As expected the home side started the game brightly with RVP and Rooney linking the game well. United opened the scoring when RVP showed some of his ball control skills inside the box to make a well judged pass from a tight spot to Giggs who scored effortlessly. The van Persie show would continue. Just before halftime, Rafael’s beautifully weighted pass found van Persie down the middle and the Dutch striker rounded off the keeper to give United a well deserved two goal lead.
One interesting tactical observation: Rooney made very less forward runs inside the box. His free role in the final third was restricted in the game. He played more like a Central Midfielder. May be Alex Ferguson wanted Rooney to engine the side in the absence of Carrick in the first half. Have a look at the image below, it shows how Rooney spent most of his match time at midfield areas.
Everton’s Ineffective Back Passes
Everton’s recently adopted cautious possession play didn’t work well for them at Old Trafford. Everton midfielders were reluctant to try any adventurous direct passes to feed their lone striker. Intentionally or unintentionally, there were so much of back passes made by the Everton players which did not help them in going forward.
After conceding the first goal, Everton started pressing higher up in the pitch with a high line of defense. Even though this helped down to reduce United’s time on the ball, but they failed to stop Manchester United’s counter attacks as RVP punished them on a counter during the closing stages of the first half.
It’s tactical brilliance from Alex Ferguson. They knew clearly well what can Fellaini do to them. They nullified the tall Belgian and forced him to retreat to deep areas to do his play-making duties.
United employed Phil Jones to man-mark Marouane Fellaini and restrict the service into his chest, whilst Antonio Valencia and Rafeal closely kept their tabs on Leighton Baines to prevent his trademark over lapping runs. United did not play any breath taking brand of football, but they employed a disciplined and effective strategy that worked so well in the game.
What Everton Missing?
The left-sided trio of Fellaini, Baines, and Pienaar is brilliant, but again to challenge for champions league spot, they need star players who can pull strings against any opponents. They need players like Cazorla, Bale, Mata and Hazard.
And their depth in the bench is simply isn’t enough when you compare it with Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham’s bench. Jelavic’s form after his injury is also a concern for the toffees who are struggling to score goals off late.
If they could add some ready-made talent (not Everton way), then you could very easily see Everton kicking on and taking that final step.
As it is, however, they look and play like an Europa league team.
Verdict: Just an other day at old Trafford for Manchester United!
Here are some stats from the game,