Manchester City's Josep Guardiola beat Manchester United in all respects in the derby against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Let's analyze the numbers and the main tactical nuances of the moral confrontation.
Both sides had similar staffing problems before the match. The hosts could not count on Pogba, Varana, and Cavani, and the guests were forced to do without Laporte, Mendy, and Ferran Torres. Solskjaer, after a crushing defeat from Liverpool, played the third match in a row according to a scheme with three central defenders 3-5-2 or rather 5-3-2, since Manchester United most of the time was still acting in the destructive phase of the game.
Guardiola's team has traditionally maintained their signature no-forward structure. Nominally, statistical resources portray the Manchester City formation as 4-3-3, but this interpretation is nothing more than a convention. Guardiola has long played without a center forward, with different full-back functions and constant player interchangeability. Pep is one of those specialists who do not just try to match tactical trends; he sets them himself.
For the Manchester City mentor, the term "position" has long ceased to be the area of activity of a footballer with specific characteristics. For Pep, a position is a list of functions that any footballer who finds himself in a particular zone must perform. The structure of Man City is constantly changing, depending on the phase of the game.
The principles of positional fluidity force different players to act in two, three, or even four positions during the match. In Guardiola's system, footballers are not limited to specific situations but are endowed with functions and particular roles.
Manchester United Manchester City 0: 2 (0: 2)
Goals: Bayi, 7 (aut.), Silva, 45 (Canselu)
Manchester United: De Gea, Lindelof, Bailly (Sancho, 46), Maguire, Van Bissaka, Fernandes, McTominay, Fred (van de Beek, 80), Shaw (Alex Telles, 73), Greenwood (Rashford, 66), Ronaldo
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Canselu, Gundogan, Rodri, Silva, Jesus, de Bruyne, Foden
Warnings: Ronaldo Canselo, Silva
Shots (on target) 6 (1): 16 (5)
Free kicks 3:12
Shots after set pieces 1: 5
Heads 1: 1
Ownership 32.6%: 67.4%
Passing accuracy 82%: 92%
Long passes 42:49
Short transfers 383: 812
Key Gears 3:13
Assists in the first third 131: 129
Assists in the second third 211: 444
Assists to the final third 83: 288
Gears in a row 5: 9
Horse martial arts 9:10
Dribbling (successful) 10 (4): 19 (11)
Corner 1: 9
Clearances 22: 5
Offsides 4: 1
Almost all statistics, including xG, highlight Manchester City's substantial advantage. Guardiola's team predictably had more possession. Moreover, this was not an abuse of sterile control. The heatmap demonstrates that guests' most active areas of activity were the border areas of the second and final third of the field.
Manchester United played just three hits from outside the penalty area, of which only one hit the target. The author of this achievement was Cristiano Ronaldo. One De Bruyne from outside the penalty area struck as many shots as the entire Manchester United 3. City also delivered 75% of his shots from the penalty area with an overwhelming advantage in the number of shots on goal.
Pay attention to the ball loss map. The losses of Manchester City are marked in blue, in orange, respectively Manchester United. The difference in numbers doesn't look too big. In addition, Manchester United made fewer mistakes in this regard. The bottom line is in the zones. Guardiola's team practically did not lose the ball in their third of the field, and indeed, in their half of the area, they have only four losses. Manchester United has as many as seven defeats in their third of the field. It is the result of the effectiveness of Man City's high pressing and counter-pressing.
In the constructive phase of the game, both teams fell on their left flank. It was especially evident in Solskjaer's group. An activity rate of 57% for one vertical zone is a kind of anomaly. Such numbers are scarce. As for the horizontal zones, 17% versus 36% of the actions in the final third of the field eloquently characterize the match's picture.
It is not to say that Manchester United had counterarguments in quick attacks. It is possible to single out only the very single blow of Ronaldo, which Ederson coped with. This moment was engineered into one of two relatively successful stretches of Manchester United. In the middle of the first half, the hosts found counterplay and even tried to cover the opponents on their field. But, it did not last long. The last fifteen minutes before the break took place with a real advantage of the guests 70% of possession and 0: 4 in shots. The score of 0: 2 in the first half fully reflected the objective state of affairs.
Between halves, both head coaches made adjustments. Solskjaer traded one of Bayi's center backs for winger Sancho and switched to the basic 4-2-3-1 formation. Guardiola did not make substitutions, but judging by the manner of his players' play, the Spanish specialist was not against giving the ball to the opponent for a while and playing on the counterattack.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half is the only such segment in the match in which Manchester United had an advantage in possession (53%) and shots (1: 0). The only thing that was effective for Manchester United during this period was neutralizing the opponent's counterplay.
Soon, City raised the line of defense, returned to pressing, and with renewed vigor unleashed its attacking positional play on the opponent. The owners of Old Trafford resignedly and finally returned to their deep trenches. Only De Gea's courage and the low realization of chances by Man City players saved the "red devils" from a crushing score.
From 60 to 75 minutes of the match, the guests had possession of the ball 86% of the playing time, and the passing accuracy ratio was 67%: 93%. And this was when the hosts were "on fire" and had to rush to win back two goals.
In my opinion, Solskjaer was wrong with the choice of the 5-3-2 formation. The positional fluidity of Manchester City, in which at least six players (Canelo and the entire attacking group) were systematically changing positions, led to the fact that City regularly had a free player on the flanks and in the half-spaces.
Moreover, the guests deliberately created a free footballer in different zones. If the positional attack developed from the right, on the opposite flank, in isolation with the right lateral and the free zone, Foden and Canselu were, respectively. Conversely, De Bruyne or Silva would be accessible in the right half when the ball was on the left. "Citizens" quickly and orderly transferred the ball into a discharged space, where a short-term numerical advantage was created in the ball zone.
Figuratively speaking, the free zones in the defense structure of MJ were like a bubble in a regulated building level. Manchester City, like an experienced craftsman, adjusted the bottle to the desired performance. To some extent, it was a confrontation between the football of the near future and the football of the recent past. Manchester United's players were strictly positional before the break, while Man City enjoyed playing with time and space.
Take a look at the screenshot above. It clearly shows how the guests created space for themselves in the opponent's half of the field. In this case, one of the conditional "eights," De Bruyne, rose higher, keeping the central midfielder MU in a low position. Accordingly, Gundogan had enough free space for a high-quality and efficient ball transfer through medium passes. Kinsella gave it to Ilikai, and he passed it to Silva, who filled the free zone in half-space.
The Portuguese were not a false nine at all. In such a system of play, its role was to search for and fill in the constantly emerging zones, which are guaranteed by the positional fluidity of the MC. Silva was an additional midfielder who was not tied to any of the positions. It is a new feature in football that does not yet have an established identification, something like an all-out midfielder.
By and large, when Kanselu climbed high, and Walker and a couple of center-backs remained behind, in the attack, City acted in 3-1-6-0 or 3-1-4-2 without a center-forward and with high winger positions (they are exactly two in front). When Canelo and Walker were positioned symmetrically, City maintained a 2-3-5 or 2-3-2-3, 2-3-3-2 phase structure. The structure changed depending on the positions of Silva and Canelo.
After the match, Manchester United head coach Solskjaer admitted that at this stage, it is difficult for his team to confront the leading Premier League clubs: "Now we are far from the TOP teams. My fate at United is now in the balance. We have direct and honest communication with the club; I am supported. As long as I am in the club, I will improve the team's results. "
In turn, Josep Guardiola did not hide his satisfaction with the game and the result. Also, he commented on why he played without substitutions: "A decent performance, a good match, and a well-deserved victory—three more points in the piggy bank. I am very demanding. We are very selective of ourselves, but I am happy. We needed just such a game.
Why didn't you replace it? The score was 2: 0 - everything went comfortably. I didn't feel the need for them. There are 27 games left. Chelsea is unstoppable, and we can't afford to lose points too often. "
The score does not reflect the complete picture of what is happening at Old Trafford. The difference in the level of play between the teams was too high. The champions defeated their most principled rival in a mocking style. The fact that Manchester United struck more shots on target.
Most of the playing time, Solskjaer's team watched helplessly as the opponent played football. Sometimes it seemed that this was not a Mancunian derby but a tactical exercise by Man City, something like a big rondo, in which a group of players in red footballs had to be in a destructive phase of the game constantly.
It seems that this match has finally confirmed the opinion that Manchester United needs a new coaching staff. Solskjaer did an excellent job of bringing the team closer to the level of ambition of a great club, but higher-level specialists are needed for further development.
Manchester City once again played at their level in a big match and gained a boost of confidence after relegation from the League Cup and a misfire at Crystal Palace. Guardiola's team has every reason to defend their title, although this season, the "townspeople" have two worthy competitors - Chelsea and Liverpool.