Manchester United vs Liverpool – Tactical Analysis: Premier League 2022/23

Manchester United vs Liverpool – Tactical Analysis: Premier League 2022/23

  • Tactics
  • August 25, 2022
  • No Comment

Liverpool’s poor start to the season turned worse as they lost 2-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. United themselves lost their opening two games and shipped in 6 goals in the process. Liverpool were the favourites to win this one, but the performance from Klopp’s side was shockingly under par.

United went into halftime with a one-goal advantage after Jadon Sancho’s composed finish in the 16th minute. They doubled their lead with a goal from Marcus Rashford, who had yet another memorable performance against Liverpool.

Liverpool did get one back in the 81st minute but couldn’t get the equalizer as they dropped below United in the league table.

Also read: Winners and Losers: Premier League Gameweek 3

How Ten Hag Targeted Liverpool’s Defensive Frailties?

It’s not a surprise when teams target Liverpool’s right side as a weakness. However, due to the structure of Liverpool’s midfield and defence, teams don’t often succeed at this.

With both Matip and Konate being injured, Gomez was playing as the right center back alongside Van Dijk. Interestingly, the last time the pair started a game together it resulted in a 7-2 defeat against Aston Villa.

To add to the weakness on Liverpool’s right, Klopp made a surprising change to his starting lineup. He dropped Fabinho and deployed club captain Henderson as the no.6. As we have seen for years, Henderson is a key player in covering Trent when he pushes up the pitch in higher positions.

With Henderson not in his usual position, young Harvey Elliot was in the right midfield zone, and because of the type of player he is, he was never going to provide the defensive cover needed behind Trent.

How Man United exposed Liverpool’s right flank

As a result, the right side of Liverpool’s defence, which is usually weaker than the left, was made even weaker due to Klopp’s rather strange decisions.

With Harvey Elliot naturally being a very attack-minded player, and Henderson in a different position, the gaps between Gomez and Trent were huge. As a result, Gomez had to shift to his right, which unsettled the whole backline, and adding to the problem was Fabinho’s absence in front of the Reds defence.

Elanga, Rashford, and Martial, when he came on, were constantly attacking that area of the pitch in United’s offensive transitions.

Manchester United targetting Liverpool’s right side while attacking. [Picture Credit: Sofascore]
Manchester United’s goalkeeper, David De Gea’s pass map against Liverpool [Picture Credit: The Athletic]

It wasn’t just the transitions; United’s overall build-up play was focused on targeting Liverpool’s right flank using numerical overloads in that area. As can be seen in the above picture, the majority of De Gea’s passes were towards United’s left wing.

Also read: Leeds United vs Chelsea – Tactical Analysis: What Went Wrong For Tuchel?

Liverpool’s Struggles In The Midfield

Liverpool’s pursuit of signing a new midfielder has been quite a saga throughout the summer. They lost out on Tchouaméni with the French youngster deciding to sign for Real Madrid.

Against United, Liverpool’s lack of vertical ball progression was particularly evident. They struggled to beat United’s press and couldn’t get the ball in behind United’s midfielders who were excellent in all aspects.

With Klopp strangely deciding to bench Fabinho, they lacked the Brazilian’s ability to move the ball and play out from the back. Klopp obviously realized he got it wrong, and Fabinho was subbed on in the second half to add more structural balance as the game progressed. 

Roberto Firmino’s heat map against Manchester United. [Picture Credit: Sofascore]

This is Roberto Firmino’s heat map against Manchester United. The Brazilian was deployed as a false nine, which is a usual role for him in this Liverpool side. However, the overall ball progression from Liverpool’s midfield was so poor that the Brazilian had to drop a lot deeper to get involved.

Firmino received the ball in the type of areas from where it’s hard to influence the game or be a goal threat. As a result, all of Liverpool’s front three were highly isolated from each other for most of the game. Henderson clearly struggled as a no.6, recording just 3 progressive passes against Manchester United while Milner had just 1.

Harvey Elliot was the only midfielder who posed a threat vertically as the youngster completed an impressive 8 progressive passes for Liverpool. His movement in between the lines also created confusion in United’s marking and the teenager’s performance was perhaps the only positive for Liverpool.

How Eric Ten Hag Praised His Team

Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Eric Ten Hag said, “We can talk about tactical, but it is all about attitude. There was communication and a fighting spirit.

“I wanted a different approach and a different attitude, and that is what they brought on the pitch. It is only a start. We can play with much more composure and much more danger. Be a team and have a good spirit – and that is what we saw today.”

“It is not always about what I said. I said we have to act and not to talk a lot and make sure you are a team and battle and be brave and give each other options.”

“I said to [the players] we have to act, not talk a lot. Make sure you are a team and battle and be brave. It’s not only about spirit out of possession.”

“Sometimes strikers think they cannot do it because they have to save their energy for offensive actions. Nowadays, it’s a demand, and that is what you saw. It makes me happy Rashford and Sancho scored the goals.”

“I am happy with the performance, but we have to bring it every game. Don’t just bring it against Liverpool. Every Premier League game is difficult, we need to bring it to every game. It starts, once again, with the spirit.”

Also read: The Spanish Take: La Liga Round Up Gameweek 2

Related post