Analysis: Manchester United tear through inexperienced LA Galaxy side

Manchester United would begin the match lining up in a 3-5-2. Jose Mourinho explained before the match that he likes to experiment ‘especially in [the] second season’s pre-season’. The United manager also let it be known that he would substitute all eleven players at halftime with the new signings, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof making appearances in the second half.

LA Galaxy started a weakened team in the first half, fielding ten players from the reserves and the youth set up. The MLS team is currently eighth in the league so their manager Curt Onalfo can be forgiven for resting his best players for half of the game with an important league game on the horizon.

To start the game, when LA Galaxy were in possession, the United players pushed up and pressed essentially marking one v one with their defensive counterparts. This pressure instantly bore fruit with the first goal. Marcus Rashford stood slightly off the centre back, Daniel Steres, forcing the goalkeeper to use him as an outlet. The centre back then found himself devoid of options and made a speculative pass out to the right back, Nathan Smith, who was tracked and tackled well by left wing-back Jesse Lingard. The finish from Rashford was clinical.

Early on United played a number of long passes over the top and into the right flank for Herrera, Mata and Rashford. Although only two were successful, the threat in behind the defence would force the Galaxy back line to defend deeper than they would like to. This meant any time United won possession in the Galaxy half they could attack swiftly, in numbers. This is how United would increase their lead. First winning the ball and slicing through the centre of the park with Juan Mata providing the assist for Rashford following pressure on the Galaxy midfield by Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera. Then scoring a third following a quick one two between Lingard and Herrera. The former turning at the byline to set up Fellaini.

With LA Galaxy defending deeper Mata was afforded more space, playing as a free roaming no.10. His influence on the game grew after the 20-minute mark and he was involved in a number of excellent passing moves. Much of the team’s best work came from attacks down the left flank with Lingard being the more threatening of the United wing backs.

Late in the first half United finally beat the offside trap with Carrick finding Rashford with a long ball over the top of LA Galaxy’s high defensive line. The youth product, however, was unable to finish the chance despite being one on one with the goalkeeper.  Despite burying two chances earlier in the match, that is the type of chance that is preventing Rashford from taking the next step as a striker. Rashford needs to show a ruthlessness in these situations in order to become United’s first choice striker. Despite the miss, the youngster should receive credit for his impeccable movement throughout the half and the few times he did hold off a defender and receive the ball with his back to goal, he won two free kicks for the team. This is an area of Rashford’s game that was largely missing up until now. Some will credit the added muscle the striker has added this season but he also showed that he knows how to use the added strength to correctly hold off or turn his man.

The United midfield players seemed to be free to decide which players held and who got forward, whether they were pressing or attacking. Fellaini looked uncomfortable in possession at times but Herrera and Michael Carrick looked to be in mid-season form against the young Galaxy side. United’s back three functioned well snuffing out all signs of danger with relative ease throughout the half.

Paul Pogba showed his creativity early in the second half, intercepting the goalkeeper’s poor pass directly into Romelu Lukaku’s path. The Belgian striker’s powerful strike was saved at close range by Rowe however. Then following a cleared corner, Lindelof played a one-two with Pogba on the left-hand side before trying to chip a left foot pass into the box. The Swedish defender looked very comfortable attacking on the left-hand side despite being played in the centre of the back three. He would later show off more of his attacking ability, dribbling through three Galaxy midfielders before laying the ball off. The Swede’s ability to dribble and join midfield is essential in breaking down a team while playing with a back three. In this situation, the defender is afforded the security of his two central defensive partners.

United’s second half line up is built for speed with Lukaku and Anthony Martial in attack. The first glimpse of this is shown when a midfield error has Martial bombing across the halfway line with the ball, Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pogba sprint forward in support but Mkhitaryan’s attempted nutmeg doesn’t come off. There would be a large number of these pacy counters on display throughout the half. One can’t help but think this is how Mourinho envisions his team attacking throughout the new season.

United’s second half midfield of Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Andreas Pereira is extremely attacking. This is somewhat balanced by the two defensive minded wing backs, Matteo Darmian and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Pereira appeared to be the deepest lying player of the three. Pogba was consistently the highest presser of the three although Mkhitaryan did get forward a lot. Most notably when he sprinted through the centre of the park with the ball at his feet in the 60th minute. He played the ball to Lukaku on the left who played it back to the Armenian for the shot which was deflected for a corner.

With United threatening on the break again Mkhitaryan makes the second half break through when he intercepts the ball into Martial’s path, the Frenchman returns the ball with a through pass for the easy finish. Martial had started out as a left centre forward before switching over to the right wing giving Mkhitaryan more space to run through the middle.

Pogba’s deep, low long pass out wide for Fosu Mensah stretched the LA Galaxy defence, Lukaku draws the attention of the defence in the centre allowing Martial to free himself inside the box and make the cool finish.

LA Galaxy got a goal back through Giovanni Dos Santos when he took advantage of United’s attack minded midfield and caught Bailly without protection. After the defender was beaten by Dos Santos’ one two with Roman Alessandrini, Lindelof was caught wrong footed. Shortly after United are again exposed on their right wing with Alessandrini forcing a reaction save from Joel Pereira. These two moves showed how the area in behind the wing backs can be exploited when playing with three at the back. Fosu Mensah would fill in that gap following LA Galaxy’s second chance but it is an issue that the Dutchman should have been conscious of as that is a big part of his role defensively.

With LA Galaxy again applying pressure on the break, Lindelof showed his timing in the tackle making a last ditch slide tackle in the area to prevent the shot and put the ball out for a corner. From the set piece, The Swede would allow his man, David Romney to win the header that resulted in La Galaxy’s second goal.

On the whole, United looked strong in attack, though still rusty with some of the finishing and although they won’t be happy to concede two late goals to LA Galaxy’s strongest lineup the formation seemed to work well, in different ways with both the first and second half line-ups.

Written by David Sagoe


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