Football scouting blog
With Manchester United finally looking like the real deal under Louis Van Gaal, the upcoming fixture against off form VfL Wolfsburg looks fairly routine. Manchester United are in a rich vein of form and have notched up 3 straight wins in the last few week. With the new threat of Anthony Martial’s pace and Rooney who seem to have found his shooting boots, also Mata who is in scintillating form with a record of three assists and three goals in four games. Going forward, Manchester United are absolutely flying but with the upcoming game against VfL Wolfsburg there is a few things that should raise concern
Left side of the defence
There is the obvious concern of Daley Blind at central defence against yet another powerful target like Bas Dost. Blind has been in great form at LCB and has played some of his best football in a Manchester United shirt, however he has been exposed the few times he has played against powerful STs. Bafetimbi Gomis and Graziano Pelle have run him rugged and the potential battle against Bas Dost could prove another tough test.
Another of Manchester United’s defensive problems is the absence of Luke Shaw at left back which has left position without a ready made suitor. Marcos Rojo has been tipped by many to fill the gap but Louis Van Gaal recently said,
“Rojo has not played so much. He has trained for three or four weeks very hard, then he played for Argentina for 70 minutes, 50 minutes against Swansea City and then 70 minutes in the last match at Southampton. It was a very good building up but he is injured; that is unlucky.”
So this does put the inclusion of Rojo in doubt for the VfL Wolfsburg game. In the past couple games, Louis Van Gaal has tinkered with this position by placing Ashley Young and Darmian there, each for one game. Both players have been adequate cover but remain untested. WIth Daniel Caligiuri growing in confidence and Wolfsburg very dangerous counter attack, there is potential problems for the left side of the defence.
VfL Wolfsburg – Counter attacking success
Dieter Hecking, has made VfL Wolfsburg one of the best Gegenpressing teams in Germany and they do enjoy playing on the counter against possession based teams. Some of VfL Wolfsburg’s, best victories have been when they have played in their 4-4-1-1 counter attacking football rather then their more attacking 4-1-4-1. They have recorded massive victories against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in the last 18 months and have also won the German Super Cup and German Cup playing this way.
Last week, against Bayern Munich was a great example of this great combination of Gegenpressing and the VfL Wolfsburg counter attack. Hecking’s, VfL Wolfsburg team, was actually in complete control for the entire first half and Pep Guardiola’s team were struggling to transition the ball from their defenders into the forwards. The slow possession based football, Bayern Munich were playing in the first half played perfectly into the hands of the Gegenpress. Whom, although played a deeper line than what has come to be accustomed with this style of pressing the principles was still the same; the high intensity pressing and running and quick to utilise the counter attack. They forfeited the width so that Bayern Munich players would attack through their wingers and full backs. And the moment, the ball would go wide they would quickly shift across and outnumber the Bayern wingers and fullbacks using the Gegenpress effectively as a cohesive unit. This lead to a lot back passes and sterile possession by Bayern Munich which lead to them going to half time one nil down to Wolfsburg. An inspired substitution by Pep Guardiola in the second half, when he brought on Robert Lewandoski; who went on to produce a historical nine minutes in which he scored five goals and changed the tone of the game. And at the end, the Bayern Munich 5-1 VfL Wolfsburg, scoreline did not reflect the competitive nature of that match and VfL Wolfsburg overall performance.
In conclusion, the game against VfL Wolfsburg will prove to be the toughest game of the season so far and will put to test whether Manchester United recent form is the real deal or they are still just the pretenders.