The quarter-final fixture of the EFL Cup competition between Everton and Manchester United was an interesting game between two teams who are back in form in the Premier League.
Everton started the first half losing the ball multiple times. While Manchester United tried to take advantage of this situation presented to them, they couldn’t find the back of the net. Notably, Keane lost the ball twice while trying to control the ball the first time played from his right, and Olsen almost gifted a goal to Cavani after a poor first touch on a back pass. Everton somehow managed to not concede a goal in the first half dominated by Manchester United, where they misplaced many passes and lost the ball too often.
Everton was forced into a substitution 10 minutes into the half when they had to take off Richarlison and replace him with Bernard. Now we know Everton’s win stats with and without Richarlison on the pitch for them. The second half was more balanced in terms of possession. While Everton did create more chances, it was Manchester United who had the last laugh thanks to an excellent finish by Cavani in the dying minutes of the game.
Both teams made changes to their starting XI compared to their starting XI in the Premier League. Olsen, Everton’s second choice goalkeeper started in the goal. Everton welcomed back Gomes in the defensive midfield position and Coleman in the right-back position.
Pogba and Matic started the game in the midfield for Manchester United. Rashford and Martial were on the bench handing a start to van de Beek on the left and Greenwood on the right. Cavani started upfront in his usual number 9 position.
In this tactical analysis of the game between Everton and Manchester United, we will take a look at Manchester United’s tactics to move the ball in between the lines and Everton’s struggles in the final third. In this analysis, we will also look at the build-up play that led to Cavani’s goal.
Manchester United bypass midfield
Manchester United started with 4 midfielders in this game – Pogba, Matic, Fernandes, and van de Beek. It could easily be interpreted as an intention to crowd the midfield, but clearly, that wasn’t the intention in their build-up play.
During the build-up, Matic dropped to form a three-man defensive line alongside Maguire and Bailly. Van de Beek occupied a position as a wide player on the left, while Bruno occupied his usual number 10 position. Paul Pogba was the only player in the central midfield to play to.
But the plan for the defensive players was never to pass to Pogba. Pogba’s position and subtle movements meant that Sigurdsson would stop the passing lines to Pogba. This was a deliberate tactic as Maguire and Matic only looked to play long balls to either Bruno or Greenwood in between the lines.
Here Maguire is looking for passes directly to Greenwood who isn’t tracked by Mina at risk of losing defensive position. The coordinated movement towards the ball by Bruno put Andre Gomes in a position neither close to Greenwood nor to Bruno.
Everton should have asked Calvert-Lewin to cover Pogba while Sigurdsson would be the spare man in the midfield to anticipate these direct passes by Manchester United from defense into the final third. As a result, Manchester United dominated possession and create many good chances in the first half.
Everton’s failure in the final third
Everton came back a much better side after the break retaining possession of the ball and also making progressive passes in the final third. The one thing you do not associate with Carlo Ancelotti’s team is sloppiness. Everton misplaced too many crucial passes in the final third.
Here Calvert-Lewin plays a pass too hard for Iwobi to control and enter into the penalty area. Instead, the ball goes out of play and a very good moment for Everton goes to waste. There were few instances that Everton could have capitalized on in the second half.
In some attacking moments, Everton did not play the pass at the right moment making it easy for Manchester United to defend. In the above picture, Coleman finds himself in a very good position to either pass to Sigurdsson or reverse pass to Calvert-Lewin who was making a run behind Maguire while Manchester United defense is still on the move. But he held on to the ball too long, while Manchester United defense moved up close to Sigurdsson and also playing Calvert-Lewin offside. An opportunity lost.
Edison Cavani is a proper striker that any top team would benefit from. His predatory instincts in the penalty area are especially useful. And he scored a wonderful goal to give Manchester United the victory in the last 5 minutes of the game.
All throughout the game, Cavani had many opportunities to score a goal, and most of them were shots on goal saved by the goalkeeper. Now, these shots on goal came from Cavani’s right side, supposedly his stronger side, and from an angle relatively tighter to the goal. Also, the Everton goalkeeper stood firm to these shots even when Cavani was able to get the shot away from Everton defenders.
The goal was a different story. Firstly, Everton was at fault for letting Martial receive the pass and turn unmarked in such a dangerous position in the dying minutes of the game.
From then on it was pure class from Cavani. His first touch from the pass he received set the tone for the goal. Instead of moving the ball to his favourite right, his first touch was to shift the ball left. Godfrey, defender close to him, was wrong-footed and couldn’t really recover from there.
Cavani set up the ball well with his second touch and produced a brilliant finish with his third touch, which proved to be the most important of the game. The finish to the right bottom corner gave no chance to the goalkeeper.
Manchester United are becoming a team that adapts well to the opponent tactically. And the way they implemented these tactics throughout the game is impressive. Overall, they deserved the victory to progress to the semi-finals of the EFL Cup.
For Everton, this is another game where they did alright but not quite enough to win the game. They missed the creativity and accuracy of James Rodriguez in the attacking third. In addition, Richarlison’s injury didn’t help their cause in this game where they didn’t deserve to win.