This was a fixture between two teams who are not the in-form teams of the Premier League and have big ambitions for the season, may not be high on quality but was high on effort. This was a tricky fixture for both Manchester United and Everton. With Everton missing Richarlison and Manchester United suffering defeat in the Champions League, both the team needed at least a point out of this game.
The game started with Manchester United dominating the possession while Everton was slowly settling in the game. Eventually, the game was more or less even in terms of meaningful possession and chances created in the first half.
Everton scored the first goal of the game, pretty much against the run of the play. Manchester United came back in the game with an equalizer and finished the first half stronger after scoring their second goal. As per stats, Everton unusually lost more balls on their right side in the first half. Overall, they lost the ball 106 times in this game than they usually did in their previous games (86 times in the last 5 games).
Both of the teams committed fouls and did not allow the other team to play in the second half. The game eventually settled and Everton started to dominate possession. Manchester United was set up more for counter-attacks in the second half. Since Everton was chasing the game, they made more entries in the penalty area and created more chances than in the first half, but without an end product. Interestingly, Everton attempted 25 crosses in the game, but only 9 crosses successfully found another Everton player.
Everton, at home, welcomed back their star player James Rodriguez into the starting XI. Coleman also came back to the team after missing out on a couple of games due to a minor injury. Everton replaced Richarlison with Bernard on the left. They were set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with the in-form Dominic Calvert Lewis heading the attack.
Manchester United gave a surprise start to Juan Mata who replaced Pogba on the right side of the midfield. Anthony Martial replaced Greenwood upfront from their game against Arsenal. The rest of the side remained unchanged since their last Premier League game against Arsenal. Manchester United ditched their diamond formation to a more traditional 4-4-1-1 formation, where Bruno Fernandes was allowed more freedom.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the areas where Everton and Manchester United adapted to the needs of the game. In this analysis, we will also see how what led to Manchester United’s first goal.
Manchester United – Off the Ball
For a team that has been criticized heavily for basic defending, Manchester United presented a very good off-the-ball structure throughout the game. In the end, it was their defensive discipline and organization that got them through in the second half dominated by Everton.
Fred and McTominay played as the anchors in the midfield. The change in tactics in the midfield helped Manchester United, and these two players played a crucial role in that. They not only dictated the game well for Manchester United but also defended well on counter-attacking moments during the game. When Everton had the ball, Rashford and Juan Mata occupied the wide positions in a four-man midfield, while Bruno marked Allan and Martial occupied the Everton centre-backs. Special mention goes to Harry Maguire who won all his duels against Dominic Calvert Lewin.
Manchester United successfully defended most of the counter-attacking moments. The compact back four was well supported by the two men in the midfield. Fred and McTominay pressed well during the game, but also stopped all the forward runs or passes during the Everton counter-attack.
Here, McTominay positions himself well, blocking Bernard’s forward movement with the ball. Fred, meanwhile, is goal-side of Dominic Calvert Lewis to stop any forward movement. Their defensive awareness in this game was particularly impressive.
Everton – Defending Deep
Though the average position of the Everton defenders was not as deep, all through the game they defended deeper than they usually do. I am not sure if this was meant on purpose for this game or not, but it surely didn’t work for them. They left a lot of space in between their midfield line and defensive line.
Here we see Scott McTominay with the ball unchallenged looking forward to play the ball in between the lines. Anthony Martial dropped a little, received the pass from McTominay while laying if off for Bruno Fernandes’ lateral run. All this happened without any real Everton pressure on Manchester United.
Everton’s defenders dropped so deep in the first half that, they left space in between the midfield and defensive lines. With distance to cover in between the lines for Everton players, Manchester United had enough time to take a touch and look for the next pass.
If Everton’s defensive line was higher (shown in the picture above), and closer to its midfielders, Martial, Rashford, and Bruno would have been marked with no space in front of them. As a result, McTominay would have been forced to play the ball sideways or look for a riskier passing option.
Everton – Bad Defending
Many teams play deep and there is nothing wrong in doing so. But they do it with the conviction of not allowing any space to the opponents closer to the goal. Everton’s defenders were guilty of not marking their man at all. They often were seen far away from their marker or unwilling to track the player.
Here Fred has at least 2 good options to play the ball to. By this moment a defender must be close enough to his opponent so as to be able to defend. Keane, who has been decent this season, is at least 5 yards away from Rashford. Fred plays an easy ball to Rashford who turns and yet Keane made no effort to get closer to him. Bruno scored Manchester United’s second goal from this move.
Manchester United – Build-up
Manchester United ensured that they were never short of numbers in the central area. Maguire, Lindelof, Fred and McTominay always played close to each other forming a quartet. They exchanged most number of passes in the game.
Most of the build-up was from Manchester United’s left side where Fred combined well with Shaw and Bruno Fernandes to get the ball forward. Manchester United was also stronger in their duels on the left side with Luke Shaw and then Axel Tuanzebe winning more than 50% out of 21 duels between them.
Football is more effective when simplicity in play is combined with football intelligence. Manchester United scored a great equalizer when Luke Shaw’s cross was perfectly headed in the goal by Bruno Fernandes. But this goal was made by the intelligent movements of Juan Mata and Bruno Fernandes.
It started on the left with Bruno laying the ball off for Fred. While Bruno moved beyond Everton’s midfield line, Juan Mata moved to the left in front of Everton midfield.
Fred exchanged passes and position with Rashford, before placing the ball for on-rushing Mata. Mata, straight into the attack, played a quick one-two with Rashford while moving in the space behind to receive the ball. All of this happened within a few seconds, and Everton’s defenders were caught ball-watching. Bruno silently held his position in front of Everton’s centre-backs waiting for the perfect cross to score.
Bruno Fernandes is exactly the modern number 10 that managers are looking for. He has the vision and ability of a traditional number 10. He also provides a great deal defending with the team, pressing in the midfield, and committing fouls when needed. Apart from his two goals and an assist in this game, the highlights of this game were his battles with Allan and Sigurdson throughout the game. There were a lot of positives from this game for Manchester United and Bruno Fernandes that need to be repeated every week.
As for Everton, they will be happy to welcome Richarlison back to their team. After a great start to the season, this was their third consecutive defeat in the Premier League. They desperately need to get back to winning ways in their next fixture against Fulham.